Why is it important to support young carers in my school?

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.

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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

Overview of the Programme

Carers Trust has joined together with The Children’s Society to run the Young Carers in Schools programme to equip schools to support young carers and award effective practice.  This innovative, national programme of training and accreditation is funded by The Queen’s Trust and the Big Lottery Fund.

Who are Young Carers?

Young carers are children and young people under 18 years old who provide care and emotional support to someone who is physically or mentally ill, disabled or misuses substances. Young carers often take on practical and/or emotional caring responsibilities that would normally be expected of an adult. There are believed to be many more young carers than official figures show.

Young carers are a vulnerable and disadvantaged group, who often experience difficulties in their education.  Without support, they can struggle to attend school and make good progress and a quarter of young carers have said they are bullied because of their caring role.

Research from The Children’s Society (2013) shows that:

  • Around 1 in 20 young carers miss school because of their caring responsibilities.
  • They have significantly lower educational attainment at GCSE level – the difference between nine B’s and nine C’s.
  • They are more likely that the national average not to be in education, employment or training (NEET) between 16 and 19.
  • A quarter of young carers said they were bullied at school because of their caring role.

About the Programme

The programme aims to increase the awareness of young carers in schools, for both staff and pupils, meaning that:

  • Young carers attend and enjoy school and reach their full potential.
  • Schools are enabled to identify and support young carers.
  • Young carers have improved wellbeing and are better prepared for independent lives.
  • Parents and carers are supported to enable their children to attend school.
  • A school culture which is fully accessible, understands and respects disability and caring.
  • Young carers have the same life opportunities as other children.

Participating in the Young Carers in Schools programme will demonstrate that your school is meeting the needs of a particularly vulnerable group of pupils. Through the programme you will also have access to:

  • “Steps to Success”: A step by step guide to setting up an effective model of identification and support, with accompanying templates, tools and exemplars.
  • Expert regional networks bringing together schools, young carer services, and health and social care professionals for peer-to-peer learning and training.
  • The Young Carers in Schools Award, enabling your school to gain recognition from several leading charities for effective practice.

Key Dates

2014-2015 – The programme starts piloting at the early implementation sites [link to news page with list of sites].

February 2015 – The launch of “Steps to Success”.

September 2015 – National roll-out of Young Carers in School Award. Prior to the national roll-out of the award all schools and their partners can access the “Steps to Success”, their regional networks and the resources.