CareTech Charitable Foundation and Hallmark Care Homes Foundation have joined forces with The @OpenUniversity (OU) to help fund the Carers Scholarships Fund – a unique initiative which supports unpaid carers by providing access to free OU education and wraparound careers support.

As the first of its kind in the UK, the OU Fund will provide the equivalent of 50 undergraduate and postgraduate full fee-waiver scholarships a year to unpaid carers who so often miss out on higher education.

The CareTech Foundation, who signed on as the first corporate partner with the OU, has committed £39,996 to the scholarships fund over the course of two years alongside Hallmark Care Homes Foundation who have donated £20,000. This grant will fund the bursaries of 18 young carer students in the programme (9 each year) for the value of £3,333, which will support 60 credits of undergraduate study and help with other expenses, such as laptops, wi-fi, travel and study support.

The first group of 50 scholarship recipients began studying with the OU in October 2020, with at least 15 of these places ‘ring-fenced’ for young carers aged 18-25.Being an unpaid carer for a friend or family member can place huge demands on the lives of young carers. Whilst it can be rewarding, caring can equally be incredibly difficult with long hours, which can take a toll on the lives of carers, affecting their education, careers, finances, health and relationships.

The OU’s unique model of blended online learning ensures that students can study flexibly in their own time and at their own pace so they can continue their caring commitments. Not only will this empower students to retrain and pursue career opportunities, they will have the chance to develop their sense of identity outside of their caring responsibilities.Currently there are 8.8 million carers in the UK. 375,000 of those are young adult carers, 600,000 are from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities, 58% are women and over 20% live in poverty.

Young adult carers (aged 18-25) have lower GCSE attainment and are twice as likely as their peers to be NEET (not in employment, education or training) for six months or more.By supporting the OU’s Carers Scholarships Fund, CareTech and Hallmark Care Homes Foundation hope that this scholarship will demonstrate that the provision of flexible, multifaceted support learning is a key driver in helping unpaid young adult carers begin and continue their studies and improve their prospects for paid employment in the future.

Jonathan Freeman, CEO of the CareTech Foundation said of the importance of supporting unpaid young carers:

“The long-term educational and employment opportunities of young carers are scandalous. This is especially heart-breaking when these individuals have put aside their own interests in order to care for their loved ones. The Open University’s ground-breaking scheme to support young carers into higher education is fantastic and we are thrilled to be supporting them through this new partnership."

Avnish Goyal, Chair of Hallmark Care Homes Foundation, Hallmark Care Homes and Care England said:

“We are absolutely delighted to be involved in this initiative, which we are confident will positively impact the lives of many young carers who are looking to learn more and broaden their horizons. We cannot wait to see what impact this scholarship fund will have in the coming years."

Jhumar Johnson, Director of the Vice-Chancellor’s Office at The Open University said:

“It is an honour that two of the top corporates in the care sector are supporting the OU’s Carers Scholarships Fund. Having CareTech and Hallmark Care Homes Foundation join this community of supporters, brings not just vital funding but also invaluable expertise into the mix and we look forward to building on this relationship in the coming years. This donation is truly wonderful and shows their commitment to the caring sector.”

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