Step 1

Supporting Young Carers in Schools

Step 1

Gaining an Understanding About Young Carers

Resource title: Supporting young Carers in School
Published: 2022 Author: Carers Trust

Young carers experience particular challenges that impact on their capacity to engage in learning. To ensure your school’s provision meets the needs of young carers and raises their attendance and attainment effectively, an essential first step is to develop your knowledge about:
  • Who young carers are and what their caring role might involve.
  • The likely number of young carers in each school.
  • Why so many young carers are hidden.
  • The potential impacts of caring responsibilities on a pupil’s achievement, attendance and wellbeing.
  • A Whole School Approach – enabling schools to meet young carers’ needs effectively.
  • Government’s approach to young carers.
  • Young carers’ rights.
A young carer is a person under 18 who looks after someone in their family or a friend who is ill, disabled, or has a mental health problem or an addiction. The tasks and level of caring undertaken by young carers 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. Young carers often take on practical and/or emotional caring responsibilities that would normally be expected of an adult. These can include:
  • Shopping, cooking, cleaning.
  • Managing medicines or money.
  • Providing personal care.
  • Helping get people out the house.
  • Keeping an eye on someone.
  • Providing emotional support.

Don’t forget

You might not think that there are many young carers at your school, but pupils with caring responsibilities are not always easy to identify.

It is likely that there will be many young carers at every school in England.

The 2011 Census identified over 177,000 young carers in England and Wales, although this is widely believed to be the tip of the iceberg.

Further research (University of Nottingham and BBC News, 2018) suggests there could be 800,000 young carers in England aged 11-16. That means about one in five secondary aged pupils have caring responsibilities. This figure doesn’t take into account young carers aged 17 and under 11, which means the real figure of young carers is likely to be higher.

The total figure of young carers in England is not known which means many young carers continue to remain hidden and unsupported.

  • The condition of the person they care for is not obvious so people don’t think that the young person needs any help.
  • Young carers do not realise that they are a carer or that their life is different to their peers.
  • They don’t want to be any different from their peers so they don’t draw attention to their caring role.
  • They believe that the school will show no interest in their family circumstances.
  • They want to keep their identity at school separate from their caring role.
  • It’s not the sort of thing they feel they can discuss with their friends.
  • There has been no opportunity to share their story.
  • They are worried about bullying.
  • They worry that the family will be split up and that they will be taken into care.
  • They want to keep caring a secret and/or are embarrassed.
  • They see no reason to tell their story and don’t believe that any positive action will occur as a result of doing so.
It is crucial to identify young carers as early as possible in order to support their wellbeing which will in turn help keep their grades and attendance levels up – which also benefits the school.” Young carer
In addition to the impact outlined in the introduction, caring can affect a young person’s:
  • Physical health: Young carers can be severely affected by caring through the night, resulting in a lack of sleep.
  • Emotional wellbeing: Stress, tiredness and mental health problems are common for young carers.
  • Socialisation: Young carers often feel different or isolated from their peers and have limited opportunities for socialising. A quarter of young carers in the UK said they were bullied at school because of their caring role (Sempik & Becker, 2013).
  • Stable environment: Young carers can experience traumatic life changes such as bereavement, family break-up, losing income and housing, or seeing the effects of an illness or addiction on the person they care for.
As a result, caring responsibilities have a significant impact on a pupil’s learning. If left unsupported, young carers can continue to struggle with school and have significantly lower educational attainment at GCSE level – the difference between nine Cs and nine Ds (The Children’s Society, 2013). The introduction of this Step-by-step Guide outlines further impacts on attainment and achievement.

Don’t forget

Supporting young carers will not only improve outcomes for these pupils, it will also improve your school’s attendance and attainment levels.
Speak to young carers individually and collectively to find out what the school can do to support – what works for one doesn’t work for all.” Young carer
It is vital that schools take a whole school approach to identifying and supporting young carers, and all school staff have the knowledge and confidence to identify and support pupils with caring responsibilities. The Young Carers in Schools programme supports schools to adopt a whole school approach to identifying and supporting young carers, in which schools:
  • Have assigned members of staff for young carers so that a member of the school’s governing body and senior leadership team has responsibility for leading and championing the school’s provision for young carers, and there is a clearly identifiable lead, responsible for day-to-day implementation.
  • Promote positive images and information about disability, illness and young carers.
  • Give staff the information they need to identify young carers.
  • Consult and listen to young carers, ensuring they have time and space to talk.
  • Embed young carers in existing school systems, monitoring and tracking their attendance, attainment and wellbeing in the same way as other vulnerable pupil groups.
  • Support and signpost young carers and their families.


A whole school approach is essential for effective identification and support of young carers in schools because it:
  • Reduces stigma: one of the main reasons young carers say they do not access support is stigma. A positive whole school ethos where young carers and their families are respected and valued by pupils, staff and the wider school community is crucial to ensuring young carers and their families feel safe and confident to access support.
  • Increases identification: many young carers are hidden. All school staff need to know how to identify young carers to ensure they do not slip through the net.
  • Promotes self-identification: a pupil with caring responsibilities may self-identify to any member of staff whom they feel they can talk to and share their worries and concerns with.
  • Respects young carers’ information: all staff need to be aware of the school’s process for sharing information about a young carer. This will help ensure that information is only shared with the appropriate consent and with a view to guaranteeing a pupil does not need to repeat their story several times. All school staff should know not to discuss a pupil’s caring role in front of their peers.
  • Addresses all of the issues: It will enable the effective delivery of flexibilities, interventions and support to raise outcomes. Teachers and support staff delivering targeted interventions, such as homework clubs, should know how to ensure these interventions meet young carers’ needs, for example, flexibility with homework clubs as some will prefer before/after school whilst lunchtime will work better for others.
  • Creates long-term change: a whole school approach that places young carers on a similar footing to other vulnerable pupils ensures sustainability.

Don’t forget

Building staff understanding and responsibility for meeting the needs of young carers does not mean creating additional functionality within existing staff roles. Rather, by being aware of how to identify and support young carers, staff will be better equipped to fulfil their existing roles within the school.

Through the Care Act 2014 and Children and Families Act 2014, the Government has shown its commitment to young carers by ensuring that they are protected from inappropriate or excessive caring.

In order to ensure that the Government’s commitment is achieved, children and young people who have caring responsibilities must be identified early and supported to fulfil their potential.

The Government recognises that schools have a vital role to play and are ideally positioned to identify young carers and to initiate support. Doing so will ensure they are able to fully participate in their education and have a fair start in life.

Ofsted – While young carers are no longer specifically mentioned in the education inspection framework, schools can still report on young carers during inspections along with other groups of children and young people who may face educational disadvantage, such as children with an education, health and care plan (EHCP), or looked-after children.

School census – From spring 2023, schools will be asked to include young carers in the school census. This won’t be limited to young carers who have had a young carers needs assessment. The Young Carers in Schools programme can help your school identify the young carers and ensure they are supported in partnership with the local authority, the local NHS and the local voluntary sector e.g. young carers’ services.

Safeguarding statutory guidance – The Keeping children safe in education statutory guidance states that “all school and college and staff should be alert to the potential need of early help for a child who…is a young carer”. Additionally, the guidance states that schools should be “alert to the specific needs of children in need, those with special education needs and disabilities (SEND), those with relevant health conditions and young carers”.

Under the Children and Families Act 2014, all young carers under the age of 18 have a right to an assessment from the local authority, regardless of who they care for, what type of care they provide, or how often they provide care. The assessment needs to consider:
  • Whether it is appropriate for the young carer to provide care.
  • The young carer’s needs for support, and their other needs and wishes.
  • If any of the young carer’s needs for support could be prevented by providing services to the person who is cared for, or another member of the young carer’s family.
Under the Care Act 2014, young carers are entitled to a transition assessment to consider the support young carers may need to prepare for adulthood, and to raise and fulfil their aspirations. The assessment should take place well before the young carer is 18 so there is time to discuss and implement the required support. The responsibilities are placed on the Local Authority, but other services including schools need to play a role in identifying young carers and coordinating support for whole families. Carers Trust’s Know Your Rights Guide is a free guide that explains the rights that young carers have and what should happen when a young person talks to the council about being a young carer or young adult carer. It is written for all young carers and young adult carers, especially for those aged eight to 25. Young carers and young adult carers worked with Carers Trust to ensure this is a highly useful and targeted resource for them.

Identifying and supporting young carers is a low cost and effective way of improving the attainment of this often low-achieving pupil group.

Young carers are frequently eligible for free school meals which enables schools to claim the Pupil Premium funding. However, as the needs of young carers mean they require different types of support to other disadvantaged pupils (see Step 6, Tool 1: Checklist of support young carers might need), it is important that schools identify pupils who have caring responsibilities in order to ensure effective use of this funding stream.

Head teachers and school governing bodies are required to publish details online each year on how they are using the Pupil Premium and the impact it is having on pupil achievement. It will be important for them to show how the school is using this funding to meet the needs of eligible young carers.

Pupil Premium funding is not ring fenced. Schools can target their use of this funding towards all young carers, regardless of eligibility, provided that the performance of the eligible pupils is demonstrably improving. Using Pupil Premium funding to support all pupils who are young carers is a low cost and effective way of improving the attainment of this often low achieving pupil group.


Sempik, J and Becker, S (2013), Young Adult Carers at School: Experiences and Perceptions of Caring and Education (Carers Trust).

UK Census 2011. Source: Office for National Statistics licensed under the Open Government License v.1.0.

The Children’s Society (2013), Hidden from View.

University of Nottingham & BBC News (2018) New Research Suggests More Than One in Five Children in England Carry Out Some Care For Sick and Disabled Family Member. Available at: