Young Carers Awareness Day
Young Carers Awareness Day 2020
Today is Young Carers Awareness Day. These children can easily be overlooked or keep their silence while at school, so here’s a short guide to understanding what a young carer is, what they go through, and how to support them.
What’s a young carer?
A young carer is a person under the age of 18 who is responsible for looking after a relative or friend unable to fully look after themselves. This can be caused by illness, disability, drug or alcohol misuse, or can show itself in less visible ways, such as mental health issues.
Young carers can be asked to carry out a range of activities, such as:
- Household chores, such as cooking, cleaning, washing up, etc.
- Physical care like administering medication and helping with personal hygiene
- Running errands or managing bills
- Acting as psychological support to family members
- Looking after siblings
According to the BBC, there are an estimated 700,000 young carers in the UK – 1 in 8 under the age of 8 – though the numbers could be higher. 39% of young carers admitted in a survey that their schools were unaware of their caring role, so it seems fair to assume that not all children are comfortable sharing their situation with staff at their school.
How does it affect children?
Being a young carer can hugely affect a child’s mental and physical health, as well as their social life, self-confidence and school performance. If you’re worried that one of your pupils might be taking on the role of carer at home, here are some signs you can look out for:
- Bullying: 26% of young carers have been victims of bullying
- Homework not being completed/turned in
- Stress and anxiety
- Missing school: 1 out of 20 young carers miss school because of their caring role
So what can you do to help?
There are a number of things you can do to support young carers at school.
Young carers can experience higher levels of stress, anxiety and tiredness. They might find it harder to keep up with the rhythm of lessons and activities, so they might need more regular breaks or longer periods to complete their work.
For young carers, the situation at home might be so overwhelming for them that they don’t get a chance to process their emotions properly. You can offer support with activities aimed at optimising and looking after your pupils’ wellbeing. Try our free wellbeing resources that you can use in the classroom. You can also link them to local young carer groups or set up a young carers’ group in your school.
The journey to good mental health starts with acknowledgement. If you notice any of the signs above it might be that the child is doing too much at home. Open a dialogue to identify what they’re going through and to figure out a way to make their time at school easier. Often children simply need someone to talk to, a trusted adult. Be that person in their lives, someone they can go to just to offload.
If you’re looking to raise awareness throughout your school and ensure your pupils are supported by every teacher and in every class, you can turn to external help. Some organisations such as Carers Trust or Action for Children offer training and support for young carers.
It goes without saying that if you have any concerns over safeguarding then this must be reported to the named person in your school immediately.