An additional 150 young carers began to receive bursary payments last week in response to the high demand and need for financial assistance to participate in education evidenced in the first round of Young Carer Bursary applications for 2015.
The programme, which was announced by the Government in 2014, is administered by Carers Australia.
“When the first round of bursary applications came in last year, we were overwhelmed by both the number of applications and the financial difficulties confronting young carers in meeting the most basic costs of participating in education,” said Ara Cresswell, CEO of Carers Australia.
“Since awarding the first round, we have been amazed at what a difference a few thousand dollars can make to things such as maintaining grades – especially in cases where young carers have had to combine shift work and education just to get by, or cannot afford online access to resources.
“When Carers Australia alerted Minister Fifield to these circumstances, the Government committed an additional $450,000 for a further 150 bursaries this year on top of the $3 million already committed over 2015 -17, for which we are very grateful,” said Ms Cresswell.
There are more than 300,000 young carers under the age of 25 in Australia, many of whom provide the most substantial amount of care to a family member who has a disability, chronic illness, mental illness or who is frail aged. A great many are under the age of 20.
In addition to their carer responsibilities, they may assist the broader family to function in a variety of ways – such as cooking, cleaning, shopping and assisting to get younger family members to school.
“While most of the young carers we encounter say they are proud of their role, they are often tired, stressed, socially isolated from their peers and financially challenged – all of which can take a toll on their education. According to 2012 estimates, approximately 40% of young primary carers aged 15-24 years participated in study compared to approximately 60% of their peers who did not have a caring role,” said Ms Cresswell.
“While the bursaries are clearly not the answer to all the problems young carers face, they do assist to reduce financial pressures associated with education and support them to complete – or, in some cases, return to – education or training while continuing to care.
“This, in turn, will have significant impacts on their future prospects.”