With statistics suggesting that as many as 1 in 12 pupils could be a young carer, and with UK children spending around 700 hours per year in school, it is more important than ever that young carers be supported in schools.
Who are young carers?
According to the Children and Families Act, the official definition of a young carer is ‘…a person under 18 who provides or intends to provide care for another person (of any age, except where that care is provided for payment, pursuant to a contract or as voluntary work).’ The care that they provide could be due to a physical or mental illness, a disability, or the misuse of alcohol or substances.
Children can be caring from as young as five years old, and in some cases, even younger. According to the 2011 census, 13% of young carers are under the age of 10, 54% of young carers are aged between 10 and 15, and 33% are aged 16-17.
The number of hours per week that a child might spend caring can also vary, with 62% caring for up to 5 hours per week, 30% caring for between 5 and 15 hours per week, 5% for 15-30 hours per week, and 3% caring for more than 30 hours per week.
What effect can caring have on a young person’s life?
Depending on who they care for, the reasons why they are caring, and how much care they provide, a young person can be affected in a number of ways. They might experience physical injury, such as back pain from lifting. They might suffer from interrupted sleep. They are more likely than their peers to experience mental ill health, and often report feeling worried, tired, and stressed. Young carers also experience a number of educational difficulties, such as lateness, absence, lower attainment, and bullying.
Supporting young carers in school
Our evidence has shown that by implementing the Young Carers in Schools (YCiS) programme, schools can improve not only the attendance and attainment of their young carers, but also their wellbeing, confidence, and how easy they find it to make and keep friends. Schools can use the free tools and resources provided by YCiS, they can access webinars and display materials, and they can participate in an Award scheme to recognise their achievements.
By starting small, and embedding young carers support in a sustainable way throughout the whole school community, schools can make a huge difference in these young people’s lives.
What can I do?
You can start today by ensuring that your school has a dedicated young carers lead – this could be a family support worker, an inclusion manager, or any other member of staff. The lead’s name should be clearly identifiable to pupils, staff, and families. The lead should be available to talk to young carers at set times throughout the school day – remember, not all young carers will be available before and after school!
If you are unsure of who is best placed to be a young carers lead, or you have any other questions about supporting young carers in your school, email YCiS@childrenssociety.org.uk