Young carers often take on practical and/or emotional caring responsibilities that would normally be expected of an adult. The tasks undertaken can vary according to the nature of the illness or disability, the level and frequency of need for care and the structure of the family as a whole
Supporting Young Carers in School
School staff are often unaware that a young person cares for someone at home, so being a young carer can be a hidden cause of poor attendance, under achievement and bullying, with many young carers dropping out of school or achieving no qualifications. There are some simple and inexpensive steps that all schools can take in order to ensure that young carers have the opportunity to achieve in school without compromising their caring responsibilities. The last census found 175,000 young carers in the UK. Local research has suggested there may be up to 30 young carers in a secondary school.
Somerset Young Carers Project offers a range of support and advice for young carers including advocacy, support groups, respite and activities. They can also support schools who want to meet the needs of the young carers in their school community by providing:
Supporting Young Carers: What works well in schools?
The Somerset Young Carers Project have developed a set of guidelines for schools on how best to support Young Carers within their school community.
Named Worker / School Champion
Ensure that there is a named member of staff that pupils can talk to and whose role is well understood by staff, pupils and parents Lead responsibility for young carers: a) To ensure that they have the same access to a full education and career choices as their peers; and b) To be responsible for promoting and co-ordinating the support they need and liaising with other agencies as appropriate
Enable staff to gain an understanding of how being a young carer affects their ability to access educational opportunities fully. (This should take place before raising pupils’ awareness to ensure support is in place.)
· Make resources available to staff
· Enable staff to access additional training about how the needs of young carers can be better met.
Whole School Approach and an Inclusive Environment
· Promote positive messages about people with disabilities and mental health throughout the whole curriculum. As a way of leading to a better understanding of the caring role.
· Implement a policy statement and Young Carers Charter
· Include Young Carers on the school admission form to help identify families where someone has along term illness or care need.
· Referrals to outside agencies would be done sensitively.
Support the Individual Pupil
· Speak to the young carer in private - Tutors/SENCOs/pastoral leads to find out what the young carer’s needs are: What caring do they do? Are they being bullied? Do they struggle with schoolwork? Do they miss out on extra curricular activities? Do they worry when they are out of contact with home? · Establish a school drop-in for young carers to have time with their peers. Be flexible when it comes to school work, exams, phoning home. Find different ways of communicating with parents other than parents’ evenings which may be difficult for some parents to access e.g. home visits, taped letters.
Raise Awareness and Link with Other Agencies
· Raise awareness of young carers’ issues amongst pupils and staff sensitively within PHSE and or assemblies, once support systems are in place.
· Have information about young carers and support helplines etc on display (community health notice board.)
What has worked well in Somerset so far?
· Individual schools adopting a strategy of how they will support young carers in their school.
· School champion / or key teacher the young person has chosen to speak with.
· Staff and pupil awareness to improve attitudes toward young people with caring responsibilities. · Young people involved heavily in setting up and shaping the support they receive.
· Individual schools having systems in place to identify ‘hidden’ young carers.
· Regular drop ins / lunch time club, providing safe place for young carers.
· Young Carers Card.
Young People’s Views
This is what Young Carers have said schools should think about:
· Flexibility is really important e.g. coursework deadlines.
· Extra support to be available to us if we need it.
· Schools need to be more aware about what it means to be a Young Carer
· To value and appreciate what we do.
· Explanations shouldn't be left to us (we don’t like having to explain our situation again and again). · Possibility that we could phone home for reassurance.
· Drop-in point such as a named place and a staff member, in case we are struggling and need some support.
· Parents’ evenings: maybe a phone call instead, or organise a suitable place if our parents do have disabilities to ensure they can attend.
· Recognition that being a Young Carer can apply to all ages.
If you would like to know more about how you can recognise and support Young Carers in your school, please contact the Somerset Young Carers Team on 01749822666 or 01458 440820 or Somerset Direct on 0300 123 2224