A recent BBC report shows that up to 800,000 people aged five to 17 are in a position of caring for a family member due to illness or dependency.
The responsibilities of caring for another person at such a young age can have a huge impact on a young carer’s life, whether that be their physical or mental health, their friendships or their education.
When it comes to attending school or college, young carers are more likely to fall behind their classmates or drop out of education altogether to carry out their caring duties. In fact, recent statistics show that one in 20 young carers miss school or college because of their role. Many may miss classes to attend appointments or find it difficult to complete assignments or revise for exams. Some, are simply too tired.
In a recent survey, 39% of young carers said that nobody in their school or college was aware of their role, yet more than a quarter of those asked have experienced bullying due to it. Being able to offer support for young carers in a school, sixth form or college is extremely important to ensure they don’t get left behind
An example of a college working to improve their support for young carers is Newcastle College, which has this year received a Quality Standard in Carer Support from The Carer’s Federation.
It was also recently praised for their support programmes in the latest Ofsted report for Newcastle College. The report stated: “Learners receive good levels of personal support to help them remain on their course and complete their qualifications. Those with personal barriers to learning receive high levels of support and swift referrals to external agencies to help them overcome these barriers.”
Here we look at some of the ways in which schools and colleges can help to support young carers.
Identify young carers and their needs
One of the hardest things to do is to find out which students are young carers. It’s not always easy to tell what is happening in a student’s home life and many young people don’t realize they are carers or would identify as one. Some may also be reluctant to admit their role as a carer, in fear of repercussions for their family.
It is important to identify young carers and encourage them to come forward by making it clear that support will be available to them.
Provide the right support
Young carers have different levels of support requirements, either practical or emotional. Some may simply need a little flexibility on their deadlines, whilst others may need to be signposted to charities or councils which can provide help in the form of. The most important thing is to be able to provide the kind of support individuals are asking for and make it visible and accessible to them.
Educate Staff and Students
One of the strongest support provisions established by Newcastle College is its ongoing partnership with local charity Newcastle Carers. The charity works closely with the College to educate staff and students on the needs of young carers and the impact that their caring responsibilities may have on their education. This approach makes it easier for teaching and support staff to identify the support needs of young carers and make sure they are given the help they need. Educating other students and raising awareness may also be effective in tackling bullying.
One of the risks of caring as a youngster is a social isolation. Schools and colleges can help to tackle this by making a commitment to young carers and helping them form friendships and relationships outside of their caring responsibilities. This could be in the form of young carer’s clubs, homework clubs or hosting awareness days and sessions.
Ensuring that no student is isolated solely because of their caring responsibilities is really important to help them to stay and succeed in education.
Many young carers don’t recognize themselves as carers and therefore may be unaware of the support and financial assistance they could be entitled to. Young carers are unpaid and due to their responsibilities are unlikely to have time to work to support their studies. Ensure that young carers have access to advise about financial support of their education and connect them with their local council to inquire about carers allowance.