College cares about being there for student carers

Geoff Vincent, specialist support team manager at West Nottinghamshire'College
Geoff Vincent, specialist support team manager at West Nottinghamshire'College

Getting a good night’s sleep helps us cope with all that life throws at us the next day.

But imagine being 16-years-old and having to get up several times each night to make sure one of your parents is okay because they have an illness or disability.

What impact would this have on your health and wellbeing?

Sadly, this is the reality for some of the students at this college, who combine looking after their family with a full-time college education.

Many young carers try to go unnoticed, as they deal with things such as cooking, cleaning, shopping, personal care and taking their siblings to and from school without other people knowing it.

On top of this, they have to make time for their studies without feeling guilty that they’re doing something for themselves.

And things don’t simply disappear at the classroom door.

Tiredness creeps in and anxiety levels increase as they struggle to concentrate because they’re worrying about matters at home.

Meanwhile, there are students who have to cope with living in a hostel after being estranged from the family home, or becoming a parent whilst being a teenager themselves.

Others are in foster care, knowing that when they turn 18 they may have to move into a flat on their own, with very few people around to teach them those all-important life skills.

This is why the college has a dedicated team to help vulnerable young people like these through their personal difficulties.

Over the past 12 months it has supported 1,582 students – learners who may look like any other person walking down the corridors – to overcome a variety of barriers they are faced with.

It starts with identifying which ones may need our help by working closely with the local authority, youth service and schools.

We then ensure they receive targeted support – ranging from mentoring, counselling and access to specialist services – to give them the best possible opportunity to reach their potential.

Because the pace and pressures of life are so intense these days, we are constantly adapting our provision to ensure it meet the ever-changing needs of students and the wider community.

As part of this, it is introducing a new ‘wellbeing centre’ incorporating awareness-raising and support, either in one-on-one or group settings, on a variety of issues such as anxiety, depression, and peer pressure, to name just a few.

Staff take time to listen and to build-up trusting relationships with students.

Most importantly, they are treated as individuals.

They will never be just a number to us.