I came to university in 2016. Despite my disability, I chose to begin by not having a carer whilst I was studying unless I discovered I really needed one. Within my first week, I met my now-boyfriend, and we became very close friends. Very quickly this relationship developed, and with this, he found himself doing a lot of the things that I could not do including cooking, cleaning up and laundry etc. Fast forward to third year, this has become an enormous problem that has not only jeopardised my partner’s mental health but has also compromised my independence.

One of the things that could have potentially helped this situation would be more support for student carers. In September 2018, we decided to apply for carer’s allowance, as my partner was caring for me well above the benchmark of 35 hours per week. Within a week we had a response saying that this application was denied because my partner was in full-time education and therefore did not qualify for this benefit. Since then, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about the injustice here, and I am determined to do something about it. Just because someone is a student, does not therefore immediately imply that they cannot simultaneously be a carer too. It seems bizarre to even have to write that, but there you go.

In the three years that we have been together, my partner has done more for me than most carers could have done, and he has pushed himself to his absolute limit to do so. This included missing lectures to come to the hospital with me. If there was some support system in place for student carers, he may have felt less alone. We may have been able to come to the decision sooner that we needed outside help, and to simply acknowledge the fact that he has been my primary carer for the entirety of his degree could bring a real comfort.

I spoke to a friend of mine who has also been in this situation, to get another perspective on this issue. Charlotte (@thebeddays) was cared for by her boyfriend Ben for two of the three years he was at university. Charlotte said “He looked after me day and night. Yet, because he was classed as a ‘full-time’ student, he was denied carers allowance and not taken seriously as a carer by PIP because of his studies. He also missed lectures due to my poor health. Rarely did he study out or spend a few hours with friends, because of my care needs.” Ben was classed as a ‘full-time’ student despite having less than 10 contact house a week. This could be where the carer’s allowance system could be amended, as many students that are in ‘full time’ education are actually not studying all day every day. If timetable was taken into account, this could potentially be a much fairer assessment.

My partner cared for me for three years with no financial aid. This is outrageous, especially considering “the government would’ve had to pay a tonne for the hours of care each week he was providing at no cost” according to Charlotte.

In response to the reason for rejection of carer’s allowance being because you are in ‘full-time education’, I would think that being in full-time study just goes to show how hard someone is trying. Balancing both school and caring responsibilities is no small task, so rejecting someone based on this seems even more unjust. Just because the support and awareness for student carers in non-existent, does not mean that they do not exist. Something has to change.