The educational impact of being a young carer aged 16 – 24 in Northern Ireland

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Very little is known about young carers in Northern Ireland generally and much less about their experiences of education. The aim of this thesis is to provide an insight into the educational impact of being a young carer (aged 16-24) in Northern Ireland. Prior knowledge on young carers in Northern Ireland has been limited to census figures, social survey data (the Young Life and Times Survey) and a report commissioned by the Patient Client Council - data that has not previously been collated together.
A mixed methods approach was adopted, and data was collected from young carers aged 16-24, and professionals working with them. The research design focused on establishing the educational experiences of young carers, the relationship between their caring role and education, the support they received and how they could be supported to achieve their academic potential. A survey of young carers across NI was undertaken and this provided 35 responses. In addition to this, semi-structured interviews were carried out with 6 young carers and 13 professionals. Data was analysed using NVIVO and SPSS. The research also provided secondary analysis of the cross-sectional data available on young carers in Northern Ireland through the collation of Census figures and the Young Life and Times Surveys.
Research findings emphasise the uniqueness of each young carers experience both in their caring role and within education. It identifies young carers as having a positive attitude towards education, the importance of having a certain mindset and as viewing their places of education as a break from providing care. However, almost two- thirds agreed that their grades had been negatively impacted by their caring role. Their caring role also impacted on their education in other ways including homework completion, concentration and making decisions about their future choices. Although sources of support were identified, approximately half of young carers felt unsupported by their teachers who, they believed, did not understand their caring role. Professionals highlighted the difficulties they had experienced building relationships with schools.
​​​​​​​The original contribution of this research is primarily that it provides additional information and new insights about the experiences of young carers in Northern Ireland and their education.
Date of AwardDec 2020
Original languageEnglish
SponsorsDepartment of Employment and Learning, Northern Ireland
SupervisorJessica Bates (Supervisor) & Una O'Connor Bones (Supervisor)

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