Letter: Hidden young carers in our schools
Date published: 15 December 2017
Children’s charity Barnardo’s
We know there are many young carers in our classrooms, with at least one in 12 secondary school students estimated to be young carers.
A poll conducted by YouGov on behalf of children’s charity Barnardo’s found that 43% of teachers in the North West were not confident they would be able to identify a young carer in their class and almost a quarter (24%) said they did not think their school had any particular ways of supporting young carers.
This is despite some children and young people carrying out more than 30 hours a week of caring responsibilities – almost the equivalent of a full-time job. As well as day-to-day responsibilities including cooking, cleaning and shopping, young carers may also provide emotional support to the person they care for.
We know from working with young carers that this can take a huge toll on children’s mental health, as well as their achievement at school. More than three-quarters (75%) of the practitioners Barnardo’s surveyed said that most or all of the young carers they had supported had suffered from anxiety, depression, isolation and feelings of anger. All the practitioners had worked with children who had self-harmed.
Despite changes to legislation which have led to more young carers being identified, there are still children with caring responsibilities slipping under the radar.
While many schools do excellent work with young carers, it is clear more needs to be done to ensure the impact of caring is minimised as much as possible. This can include ensuring there is a designated staff member responsible for young carers and that their name is published on the website. Also having mandatory training for all teachers to spot the signs of young carers provided both on teacher training courses and within schools.
Looking after their family members is something our young carers are incredibly proud of, but it should not be at the expense of their childhoods or their futures.
Barnardo’s Regional Director, North West
The views expressed are those of the author of the letter and not those of Rochdale Online.