- What is a young carers
- Young carers in schools
- Young carer statistics
- What do young carers do
- Supporting young carers
While we fundamentally believe that no child should ever have to be a carer, we know that the world is far from perfect. Despite the inevitable difficulties which some children face, there are ways that people can support them. The first step towards tackling this issue is being informed on what being a young carer involves and the sort of impact it can have on a young person’s life. Who are the young carers in this world? What do they do? How can we help them? To find out more, read on…
What is a young carer?
According to the charity Carers Trust, a young carer is someone under the age of 25 who has to look after someone else (either in their own home or at a different premises). Some young carers have to look after their parents who suffer from various medical or social issues and others have to look after siblings in the absence of a caring parent. There are also young carers who care for friends.
Caring refers to looking after people who are unable to look after themselves as a result of either age or illness – illness can include drug or alcohol addiction as well as mental health problems.
Having to care for someone else can have lots of negative consequences on the academic and social skills development of young children who often miss out on school and the important experiences of childhood and suffer from a lack of happiness.
Young carers in schools
Young carers in schools often suffer disproportionately to other children. As an example, we all know that having a supportive family can significantly improve a child’s performance at school and that parent-teacher communication is incredibly important for a child’s overall academic and social education. Many young carers in schools do not have that sort of support because their parents – either due to medical or social conditions – are not able to engage with the school. Young carers in schools are more likely to turn up to parents' evenings on their own without a parent or guardian.
As a result of caring for someone else, young carers in schools are more likely to be late to school or miss days entirely. This can have a significant impact on their education and therefore their future prospects in life. According to the Charity Carers Trust 27% of young carers (aged 11-15) miss school or experience educational difficulties.
No adult can comprehend the emotional difficulties a child must face when supporting an ill (potentially dying) parent or sibling. As a result of the difficulties and challenges they face, young carers are more likely to suffer from depression and other mental health problems.
Due to having to care for someone else, young carers have less time to focus on their grades and making friends.
Young carer statistics
- There are over 800,000 known carers aged 5-17 in the UK
- 39% of young carers in schools said that no one in their school was aware of their caring responsibilities
- A quarter of young carers in schools said that they were bullied because of their caring responsibilities
- 80% of young carers felt more isolated during the pandemic
- One in three young carers suffer from mental health problems.
- Research from the University of Nottingham suggests that the number of young carers increased as a result of the coronavirus pandemic
These young carer statistics are based on known cases in the UK. Part of the difficulty with supporting young carers is that young carers are often hidden. This means that these statistics are probably just the tip of the iceberg.
What do young carers do?
According the the charity Young Carers Trust, young carers often support the person they are caring for with:
- Practical tasks, like cooking, housework and shopping
- Physical care, such as helping someone out of bed
- Emotional support, including talking to someone who is distressed
- Personal care, such as helping someone dress
- Managing the family budget and collecting prescriptions
- Helping to give medicine
- Helping someone communicate
- Looking after brothers and sisters
Supporting young carers
Caring for someone is a huge responsibility and self-sacrifice for young people – one that they often do not choose. As such, supporting young carers – especially young carers in schools – is incredibly important.
How can schools support young carers?
Schools have many ways that they try to support carers. The most important this is to make sure that school staff are aware of the signs that a student might be a young carer – signs include things such as; a student being regularly late to school; a student refusing to go to school; a lack of communication from home; attending parents evening on their own; coming to school without proper food, clothing or hygiene; showing signs of suffering from depression or other forms of emotional difficulties.
Once a school has identified a young carer the school will likely invite them to talk and, if it is deemed serious enough, the school’s safeguarding lead will report the case to the relevant authority to offer the young carer the proper help and support that they need to give them a fair and equal change with their education. In many cases, the school might be able to offer mental health support for young people.
Young carers who want to contact someone on their own can call Childline on 0800 11 11.