Stefania Brien, BA (Hons) Health and Social Care student at Bishop Grosseteste University, shares her experiences of balancing her studies with her responsibilities as a carer and offers advice on how others in her position can access support.

By way of introduction, my name is Stef and I have just completed a three year degree course in Health and Social Care at BGU. I am a (very) mature student and a carer for my dad who is in his mid-nineties. As a student carer I became increasingly aware of the challenges that the role demanded.

The University has been proactive in enacting initiatives which support students in this demographic. Aside from the financial support that may be accessed by carers, a contract is agreed between the University and the student to support academic learning.

An inaugural group, comprised of staff and students have worked together to develop activities, resources and tools to support carers. Spearheaded by Leanne McHugh, the group have introduced the Carers' Passport, Carers' cafe, Carers Recognition Award, Fun Flip and the Carers' Pin badge. We have recognised the unpredictable nature of the caring role and acknowledge the need to prioritise our own health and well-being. We have enjoyed picnics, BBQs, colouring and biscuit decorating together.

I wanted to be part of the emerging Carers' community to not only benefit from the experience of other carers, but to improve student and staff experience. I also felt that it was important to educate and improve understanding of caring from a carers' perspective. Meeting with others strengthens the individual carer.

I have found the experience encouraging and personally beneficial. It is a time when I can be myself and make new friends and be supported. Conversely, it enables me to help and encourage others. Being a carer involves elements of sacrifice, often at the expense of personal freedom, time and well-being. Involvement with other carers provides opportunities for support.

Being a carer can create feelings of isolation and make one feel invisible. In the BGU carers' community, every person has an identity and is valued for who they are aside from their caring role. I encourage all carers, and those who want to help in any way, to seek out the BGU Carers' community.

You care, so let others care for you

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