Resources to help schools identify young carers ahead of census

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:
Image: Adobe Stock

With one in five students having caring responsibilities, schools are being helped to identify and support these vulnerable young people ahead of new census requirements.

The number of young carers in England remains, officially, unknown with many hiding their caring role and therefore remaining unsupported in school.

However, from January 2023, schools are being asked to identify young carers as part of the annual school census (DfE, 2022).

A young carer is a child or young person who cares for a friend or family member who, due to illness, disability, a mental health problem, or an addiction, cannot cope without their support.

Estimates vary as to how many young carers there are. The 2011 national census identified 178,000 young carers in England and Wales. One in eight of those were aged under eight.

However, in 2018, the University of Nottingham in 2018 estimated that there could be as many as 800,000 young carers aged 11 to 16 in England, while the Carers Trust has suggested that there may be as many as one in five secondary-aged pupils with caring responsibilities.

It can often be a challenge to identify these vulnerable young people, who can worry about the consequences for their families if they are found to have caring roles.

Research earlier this year involving 600 young carers in the UK (Carers Trust, 2022) found that a third were caring for 20 to 49 hours a week, with 14% caring for 50-plus hours a week. They said they often feel worried, lonely, burnt-out, and stressed. Bullying is also a significant problem with a quarter of young carers being bullied because of their caring role.

The pandemic has exacerbated the situation for many young carers as essential services were closed during lockdown or difficult to access.

When it comes to their studies, a quarter of young carers aged 11 to 15 miss school or struggle with their education. Previous research from the Children’s Society tells us that young carers achieve on average one grade lower per subject in GCSEs than their peers without caring responsibilities.

Ahead of this January’s new school census requirements, the Carers Trust and Children’s Society have published a new resource to help schools identify and support young carers.

Entitled A step-by-step guide for leaders, teachers, and non-teaching staff, it is designed for use in primary and secondary schools. It offers 10 steps to help schools identify and support young carers, with associated resources and downloads.

Steps include reviewing current provision, introducing a young carers schools operational lead, and raising awareness among staff and families.

The guide is part of the Young Carers in Schools programme, jointly run by the Carers Trust and Children’s Society, which provides resources to help identify young carers and embed support for them in schools.

Vicky Morgan, head of young carers and young adult carers at the Carers Trust, said: "Young carers have the extra pressure of juggling their school work with caring responsibilities at home, but support from teachers and school teachers can make a big difference to their lives, helping them feel better understood and able to prioritise.

“We know from talking to teachers and pupils about the strides in academic achievement and self-confidence that can be made once schools understand a young carer's role."


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