Thousands of children and young people across the UK will take part in activities today to highlight the need for far more support for young carers from government, schools and local authorities.
The call comes on Young Carers Awareness Day, an annual event led and organised by Carers Trust. The day aims to raise awareness of the pressures experienced by young carers – children who need to look after someone in their family, or a friend, who is ill, disabled or misuses drugs or alcohol.
Count Me In! Young carers call for educational equality in UK schools
Recent research shows that as many as one in five secondary school children may be a young carer (1). For many, the caring journey begins long before they reach secondary school.
But whatever their age, the need to provide constant care for a sibling or a parent – and sometimes both – can have a negative impact on the wellbeing, education and future prospects of young carers. Caring responsibilities all too often lead to an inability to complete homework, late arrival at school or even non-attendance.
The effects are borne out in research that shows young carers on average receive nine grades lower in their public exams than their peers who do not have caring responsibilities at home (2).
But despite the challenges faced by young carers, far too many remain unidentified and hidden away from support. These problems are less likely to build up if young carers are proactively identified as early as possible. Once identified, young carers’ circumstances at home can be better understood. This will help schools ensure that young carers are receiving the additional support they need to address their vulnerability to lower than average educational attainment.
This is why Carers Trust has made Count Me In! the theme for this year’s Young Carers Awareness Day.
To ensure as many young carers as possible are identified in future, Carers Trust and young carers are calling on:
- Compulsory education providers to acknowledge their unique position to identify young carers at an early stage so appropriate support can start as soon as possible; and to recognise young carers as a vulnerable group of learners who require additional support so they can engage in their education and go on to lead enjoyable, fulfilled lives.
- The UK Government to monitor implementation of legislation relating to young carers, including how many young carers are identified and supported; and to ensure that local authorities receive appropriate funding so they are able to fulfil their statutory duties to provide young carers and their families with the support they need.
- The Department for Education to collect attendance and attainment data on all identified young carers.
Gareth Howells, Carers Trust CEO, said:
“I know as a former young carer myself that it’s hard enough for young carers to have to juggle all the pressures of school and exams with caring for family members. They are often dealing with complex problems which many adults would struggle to deal with - from disability and terminal illness to mental health problems, alcoholism and substance misuse.
“The need to support hundreds of thousands of young carers right across the UK could not be clearer. But far too often the needs of young carers are ignored, leaving them unnoticed and unsupported. Our colleagues in local authorities, education and government need to be doing far more to identify young carers at as early a stage as possible so they can achieve their potential at school and lead happy, fulfilled lives.”
Notes to editor:
Expert spokespeople from Carers Trust, and young carers, are available for interview on request.
For further information, and to arrange interviews, please contact:
Matt Whitticase on firstname.lastname@example.org and 07824 539481.
(3) For more information on Young Carers Awareness Day 2020, please visit Carers.org.
(4) All young carers have a right to an assessment of their needs under relevant country legislation. Local authorities have a responsibility to ensure they are identifying and supporting young carers.
(5) Carers Trust is a major charity for, with and about carers. We work to improve support, services and recognition for anyone living with the challenges of caring, unpaid, for a family member or friend who is ill, frail, disabled or has mental health or addiction problems.
We do this with a UK wide network of quality assured independent partners and through the provision of grants to help carers get the extra help they need to live their own lives. With locally based Network Partners we are able to support carers in their homes through the provision of replacement care, and in the community with information, advice, emotional support, hands on practical help and access to much needed breaks. We offer specialist services for carers of people of all ages and conditions and a range of individual tailored support and group activities.
Our vision is that unpaid carers count and can access the help they need to live their lives.