Coleg y Cymoedd has received a national award for its work with young carers.
The college, which has campuses in Ystrad Mynach, Aberdare, Rhondda and Nantgarw, has been awarded the bronze and silver Young Carers College award in recognition of the work it does to support its learners who have caring responsibilities.
Designed by Rhondda Cynon Taf Young Carers’ Service, the award was presented by Cabinet Member for Adult & Childrenâ€™s Services, Councillor Tina Leyshon, at a celebratory ceremony whick took place at the collegeâ€™s Aberdare campus on Wednesday 29th January, ahead of Young Carerâ€™s Awareness Day.
According to the latest census in 2011, there are currently over 2,500 young carers in Rhondda Cynon Taf. These young people help to look after a relative, friend or neighbour who wouldnâ€™t otherwise be able to manage alone due to illness, age or disability.
Young carers find themselves juggling a caring role with school or college work and often give up on education and training as a result, feeling that they cannot cope with the additional pressures of studying. Estimates suggest that young carers are five times more likely to drop out of education than other leaners.
The Young Carers College award recognises initiatives implemented by colleges to ensure young carers are happy and comfortable at college, helping them to succeed despite their extra responsibilities. To help young carers with their education, Coleg y Cymoedd offers learners flexible learning hours, free meals and extra support throughout their college journey. The learners, who are often the primary carer for individuals suffering from serious illness, are also provided with access to counselling and taken on an annual residential trip to give them a break from their responsibilities at home.
Councillor Christina Leyshon, Cabinet Member for Adult and Childrenâ€™s Services said: â€œI am extremely pleased that Rhondda Cynon Taf Council has been able to recognise the work that Coleg y Cymoedd has made over the last 12 months to improve identification, recognition and support available to Young and Young Adult Carers.
â€œYoung Carers in Rhondda Cynon Taf often provide essential care to the ones they love the most, which takes an incredible amount of dedication and commitment. However, this can also impact on them socially, academically and emotionally. Itâ€™s critical that organisations are working together to identify Young Carers at the earliest opportunity to provide them with the support they need to continue with their studies, reduce isolation, and offer an opportunity for respite.
â€œI would like to thank everyone at Coleg y Cymoedd for the work they have put into achieving the Bronze and Silver Awards this year, and I am sure they will continue their hard work to achieve the Gold award in the future.â€
The awards ceremony was attended by Coleg y Cymoedd staff, learners and parents, as well as council Carers Support Workers, Rebecca Knight and Mari Ropstad.Â
During the ceremony, attendees heard from young carers from across the collegeâ€™s four campuses who each shared their stories of how the college has helped them. They accept the trophy, which has been designed by another young adult carer, on the collegeâ€™s behalf.
Karen Phillips, Principal at Coleg y Cymoedd said: â€œItâ€™s important to us that all our learners feel happy and supported while at college to ensure theyâ€™re able to reach their full potential. Young carers take on an enormous amount of responsibility at home, so we want to do all we can to help make their college experience as smooth as possible.
â€œWe have worked hard to ensure we have support structures in place including helping our staff to understand the signs that a learner may be a young carer, and signposting learners to appropriate help. Weâ€™re incredibly proud to be receiving this award and are committed to continue increasing awareness for young carers and supporting them throughout their time with us.â€
After achieving both the Bronze and Silver accolades, Coleg y Cymoedd is now on track to receive the Gold Award later this year and, if successful, will become the only college in Wales to hold all three levels of the award.
To continue raising awareness of young carers, the college is taking part in the â€˜Driving Changeâ€™ pilot project â€“ a three-year National Lottery funded initiative that will provide support to UK colleges to help them improve their support for young adult carers. Once completed, the college will obtain a qualification that only 12 other further education colleges in England and Wales will hold.