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Sophie Dishman: "being a carer at uni can be a lot to carry around"

Sophie DishmanHaving been a young carer herself, Carers UK volunteer Sophie is passionate about improving support for carers at university.

Sophie tells us about an exciting new young carers project she is working on to reach student carers at the University of Sunderland. 

Sophie Dishman signs that a carer might need help

I’m Sophie, I’m 21 years old and am studying journalism at university. I’m also a young adult carer.

Although I’ve cared for multiple family members since the age of 11, I didn’t realise that I was a carer until I was 18. No one asked me if I was coping or how I was doing. Most of all, I remember feeling like no one understood what I was going through.

While my caring responsibilities did ease off when I went to university, many young adult carers are left trying to juggle their education and their caring. Without support they can burn out, and I personally don’t think universities are doing enough to help.

That’s why I contacted Fixers – a social action project for young people. I wanted to do something proactive to get the message out and reach people at my university who are juggling education and caring.

Sophie Dishman bag

After meeting with Fixers to discuss my project, I decided the best way to reach students would be through a tote bag and a leaflet. The plastic bag charge means more and more people are reusing tote bags, and the idea of a ‘bag for life’ seemed to resonate with the fact that a lot of us are carers for life!

We wanted to get the message out that caring can be tough, and we need support. We decided on the strapline: Being a carer at uni can be a lot to carry around.

When you’re caring for someone, you’re always carrying around a mental checklist – pick up medication, mum’s laundry, sort out dinner etc. Sadly, for some carers at university this can mean that their studies end up being the last thing on their mind.

I decided to hand out the bag to students at the University of Sunderland on 29 January – the day after Young Carer Awareness Day (I was busy with university work on the actual day!). 

I’m committed to getting the message out, and hope to start conversations with people on my campus who are carrying around everything that comes with caring and studying. I also want to show universities what support they should be offering, to help young adult carers carry the load.

  • To find out more about Sophie’s CarersLife project with Fixers, click here
  • Sophie is a Carers UK Volunteer and has been featured on BBC Breakfast as part of Carers Week 2015 and in a Buzzfeed article.

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