South Devon College

South Devon College (@sdcollege) has become the first college in the South West to receive the Quality Standard in Carer Support (QSCS) accreditation from the Carers Federation (@CarersFed), recognising the outstanding work the College does supporting young and young adult carers.

The assessment by the Carers Federation highlighted the College’s clear commitment to embed support for Young Carers and Young Adult Carers at all levels of the College structure, evidenced through interviews with a member of the College governors.

South Devon College clearly showed it’s already identified students with caring responsibilities as a vulnerable group and implemented initiatives and processes to support them through their journey at College.

They’ve worked with the QSCS guidelines and criteria to effectively streamline and consolidate the work they’ve been doing to provide consistent provision across the College with clear systems and processes in place to monitor and review effectiveness.

How the College supports students that are carers has been developed with direct involvement of students with those circumstances to develop resources, review College processes, act as carer ambassadors and mentors, and linking this into a voluntary role which student carers can use for DoE award credits, or to improve personal statements, CVs etc. as well as providing an opportunity to build confidence and skills.

These developments are going live into the new academic year 2020-21, including updating the College website, adapted application, enrolment and bursary forms, updated surveys including the “Caring for Carers” survey, and the newly developed video resources.

The College has many opportunities for students to declare a caring role, including a student contact log which allows better communication between tutors and support staff and services, and data collection processes which allow information about student carers to be analysed in relation to achievement, retention, and progress.

In place is a very strong and effective working relationship with the local Torbay Carers service, whose input and support has helped develop a robust support framework including clear and accessible YC/YAC Guidelines, staff training/awareness resources, and the student carer survey.

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The Life Skills Mentor and Carers Champion at South Devon College, Stephanie Sparkes, has played a pivotal role in developing innovative and creative approaches to give added value to the support the College offers its student carers, while recognising the need for a clear framework and strong cross-college processes to ensure all students can expect to receive the same level and standard of support.

Stephanie said:

“I’m so passionate about this and having this accreditation means so much. It’s great to have this foundation in place on top of everything the College had in place already to support carers. Achieving everything in the QSCS criteria means that we essentially have a support service that works almost 24/7 for students that are carers.

“We’ve all been here to support carers already but there are so many more resources now and more awareness is being spread of the groups and types of carers to help students identify if they’re in a position where they could really benefit from the support we offer.

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Stephanie Sparkes - Life Skill Support Mentor and Carers Champion at South Devon College

“As well as more resources being made available to young and young adult carers to identify where they need support going into the new academic year, we now have a lot more in place for us as a College to identify where the needs are in a more proactive way. This will be crucial in closing the gaps and keep all students focused on their goals for education and set themselves up for a successful future.

“From my own personal experience as a young carer whilst studying here at the College, the support I received is something I’m eternally grateful for and is also thanks to the amazing service that Torbay Young Adult Carers Services provide in partnership with the College. Over the last 10 years, they’ve helped provide a lot of opportunities for young and young adult carers which kept my life on track and is the reason I’m where I am now. I’m honoured that I, along with the team here at the College, can develop the level of care and support further to help students that were in the same position as I was.”

At South Devon College, the accreditation is not the end of the process and recognises that there’ll be ongoing learning and development opportunities. For example, the College is discussing how the process for monitoring and reviewing individual support plans can be improved further.

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