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As a group young adult carers, supported by L&W and Carers Trust, deliver an open letter to the Department of Work and Pensions calling on the Government to reform the 21 hour rule, L&W’s Head of Learning for Young People Nicola Aylward explores ‘Fair Futures’, the theme of Young Carers Action Day 2024.

Every child and young person in this country has the right to an education. It’s universally accepted, taken for granted, and is fundamental to a society where everybody has a ‘fair future’. This is why it’s so shocking that young adult carers, who sacrifice so much for their families and society, often find themselves excluded from education – the most basic opportunity to build a fair future.

Young people do not choose to become carers. It’s a responsibility that they take on out of love for their families, and to protect the people closest to them. L&W analysis estimates that young adult carers provide over £3.5 billion in unpaid care each year. Despite this, they are three times more likely to be NEET (not in education, employment or training) compared to other young people. There are multiple reasons why young adult carers drop out of learning, but arguably the most shocking is a government policy rule that can force them to choose between staying in education or claiming Carer’s Allowance.

Young people over 16, who provide 35+ hours of care each week are entitled to claim Carer’s Allowance of £76.75 per week. However, if they chose to study for more than 21 hours each week, they are forced to give up this allowance. Young adult carers typically live in low-income households, where at least one parent is unable to work due to poor health. Most young adult carers cannot afford to give up Carer’s Allowance; instead, many can be forced to drop out of learning so that they can continue claiming this benefit. This is not a choice that any young person should have to make.

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