Schools failing young carers

New research from Barnardo’s has found that schools across the country are failing a generation of children who are sacrificing their time to care for sick or disabled family members.

The UK’s leading children’s charity has found that teachers are failing to identify and support young carers in school.

A YouGov poll found that 40% of teachers were not confident that they would be able to identify a young carer in their class.

More than a third of school staff surveyed also said that they though that young carers were not given enough support, while 29% said that they don’t believe that their school has a support strategy in place for young carers.

Some children and young people are carrying out 30 hours of care a week, filling the gaps left by adult social care in between school.

MENTAL IMPACT

The research from Barnardo’s found that caring has a negative impact on young people’s mental health too, as well as their achievement in school.

A huge 75% of the practitioners working to support young carers told Barnardo’s that most of the young people they work with had suffered from anxiety, depression, isolation and feelings of anger. All of them had, at some point, worked with children who had hurt themselves.

Under the Care Act and the Children and Families Act, teachers have a duty to identify young carers and refer them to the local authority to be assessed for support.

Stacey*, a young carer since the age of three, dropped out of school in year 10 because of lack of support. She later dropped out of college because of her caring responsibilities.

She said: “I don’t think teachers understand that stress and that just puts extra stress on a young carer. It’s continuous in Year 10 and 11. You have revision, exams, caring – you don’t get time to stop. Something has got to snap eventually – one little thing can tip you over the edge.”

UNDER THE RADAR

Under new legislation, more young carers are being identified, but many are still going under the radar. Cuts to local authority budgets mean that more and more young people are having to undertake caring responsibilities to support parents, grandparents or sibling with tasks like washing and dressing, shopping, cooking and cleaning.

Barnardo’s Chief Executive Javed Khan said: “It is simply not acceptable that children are having to sacrifice their futures to care for the ones they love.

“Austerity has meant local authorities have had to cut back on adult social care and the result is children are picking up the pieces. A quarter of the children supported by Barnardo’s young carers’ services are carrying out more than 30 hours a week of caring – that’s the equivalent of a full time job.

“It’s clear from our research that there is a lack of awareness among teachers that needs urgently addressing. Schools need to take more responsibility to make sure young carers are properly supported.

“Looking after their family members is something that our young carers are incredibly proud of but it shouldn’t be at the expense of their childhoods or their futures.”

Barnardo’s run 20 services that work to support young career an their families across the UK. They can also offer advice and support to school staff to help them ensure that young carers are supported at school. To find out more about Barnardo’s work, head to www.barnardos.org.uk.

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