Support and advice for student carers during the COVID-19 outbreak

6 May 2020

During this difficult and unsettling time, we are conscious that many of you will now have additional caring responsibilities which make it harder for you to study remotely. You may need to change study routines and perhaps reduce the number of hours which you are able to work.

Parent reading story book to small child

Below is a summary of support available to you if you’re a carer during this time. 

Who is considered a carer?

A carer is defined as anyone who looks after a family member, partner or friend who needs help because of their illness, frailty, disability, a mental health problem or an addiction and cannot cope without their support. The care provided is unpaid. 

Where to get support at UCL?

Students with caring responsibilities have full access to the same support services as any other student. If you have found yourself with new or increased caring responsibilities, it is important that you let us know your situation so that we can support you as best as possible.

  • Get in touch with your Personal Tutor or supervisor for support and to explain your circumstances. They can offer a friendly conversation and they can point you in the right direction to support services or relevant policy. Tutors may be able to arrange a time for you to discuss work you have missed. Your teaching staff may be able to arrange for missed lecture notes to be forwarded to you.

  • Let the Student Support and Wellbeing team know about your situation. Although face-to-face drop-in sessions are currently suspended, you still have full access to their online support. To speak to an adviser about your options or to make an appointment, you can get in touch through askUCL.

  • All students can temporarily interrupt their studies if they need to and return when they’re able to continue. If you’d like to explore this option, please speak to staff in your department first, who will be able to discuss how this will affect your studies, and spend some time reading through the guidance on interruptions online.

  • As a reminder, all students can apply for Extenuating Circumstances if they’re affected by any sudden and unexpected disruption. Depending on your circumstances, Extenuating Circumstances might allow you to have an extension on assignments, deferral of assessment or other adjustments. During the current coronavirus outbreak, students can self-certify when applying for Extenuating Circumstances for the rest of the academic year.

  • If you’re a student carer and find yourself in financial difficulty, we strongly encourage you to apply for financial support through UCL’s Financial Assistance Fund, which can offer up to £2,500 for students with dependants (£3,000 for postgraduate research students).

  • Student Support and Wellbeing works in partnership with Care First to provide students with support and information over the phone and online 24/7.  The Care First information specialists are trained by Citizens Advice, and can provide comprehensive answers and assistance on a wide range of issues which affect your daily life. This support is free of charge and is currently available at all times, and not just evenings and weekends.

  • Students’ Union UCL has a designed Officer for Students with Caring Responsibilities. They’re in place to represent the interests and concerns of student carers to both the Union and UCL. All student carers are welcome to get in touch with the Officer for advice and to raise any issues.

External support services

  • If you are concerned about what coronavirus might mean for you, or someone you care for, we recommend you visit the Carers UK website. The team at Carers UK have put together really useful information on coronavirus that is relevant for carers and the people they care for. 

  • The Carers Trust offers support to those who give unpaid care to a family member or friend. They have the most up-to-date resources and advice on anything from legal support and knowing your rights, through to wellbeing and mental health.

  • Mobilise is an organisation providing a daily e-support package through the COVID-19 crisis. It includes links to key information, updates on how other carers are finding ways of coping, and suggestions for entertainment at home. The service is completely free, and carers and those providing care services can sign up here.

  • The NUS also has a guide about benefits for student carers.

Virtual ‘Cuppa’ for carers

Looking after somebody who might be vulnerable to coronavirus is really tough, so Mobilise are currently running regular virtual 'Cuppa' for carers events. These are a group of carers coming together for supportive chats to share practical tips, and sometimes just to vent.