Helping With Mum: Barriers to Accessing Higher Education

I would like to send a message to staff, teachers and tutors – all young adult carers need help. Some staff need to respect the fact that when we leave college or school at the end of the day, we don’t go home and go out with friends, we go home and take care of someone until they are in bed. It’s a hard job but it’s the best job ever.” Leanne: Voices of young adult carers on barriers to accessing higher education.


The National Institute of Adult Continuing Education, England and Wales starts its 2013 report ‘Access and Inclusion: Young Adult Carers and Education and Training‘ with the above quote. I thought I would share this presentation:



We read it out of context of course, but it gives some good insights into young carers and the barriers they encounter. And it creates an opportunity for us to reflect upon the systems we have created with the understanding that they might be failing some of the people we are endeavouring to support.

Young carer

Barriers and opportunity costs

The idea that ‘education is free in Scotland’, is woefully deficient in the picture it paints.  The opportunity costs which people face are usually prohibitive for those who do not, or have not, engaged in education.  That means, they are faced with choices, and if they do one thing, then they cannot do another…


I have been made more aware of the minuscule level of engagement of people from the ‘most deprived’ (MD20) areas, but even more so, the rarity of people from a care background going into higher education.  I have also met people who do not believe that poverty exist (real poverty, they exclaim) in modern Britain, and that everyone gets the same chances and opportunities.  This is deeply troubling, as when we listen to people who are ‘not achieving’ or ‘not engaging’, they paint pictures which are often more what we associate with Charles Dickens than humanity in the new millennia.


There are increasing types of poverty as well; in our technocratic society, we find a massive number of highly intelligent people in the prison system because they suffer from dyslexia or similar problems with certain forms of information.  If you have not been taught how to do something, or cannot optically engage with a bureaucracy, it can be such a disadvantage that unfortunate alternatives are the only option for some. 


It costs £90 in Edinburgh to have an optician’s dyslexia test, and the question is posed, which week of the year do you go without living expenses to pay for this test. This is without mention of the further cost of prescription glasses.


Special thanks to George Wilson for his help editing