COLLABORATION IS KEY TO EFFECTIVE SUPPORT FOR YOUNG CARERS, SAYS NATIONAL CHILDREN’S CHARITY
Ahead of Young Carers Action Day on the 16th March, Spurgeons Children’s Charity called for greater collaboration across support services, schools and communities across the UK to ensure earlier identification and intervention for young carers in the area. The charity supports around 800 young people through their Young Carers support hubs in Birmingham and Wolverhampton. While receiving referrals for carers as young as 5-years-old, Spurgeons believe many young carers remain hidden amidst the long-term mental health and educational impact of the Coronavirus pandemic.
A BBC questionnaire shedding light on hidden Young Carers in England surveying children between the age of 11 and 15, reports more than a fifth (22%) of the respondents provided some care for a family member with an illness or disability, with 32% being classed as doing a high level of caring, and (9%) carrying out the highest amount of care. The findings, if extended across all secondary-school age children in England, suggests a corresponding 800,000 are carrying out some level of care. Another survey, by the Carers Trust, reveals that 40% of Young Carers aged 12-17 say their mental health is worse since Coronavirus and 67% are more worried about the future.
Thomas*, a 16-year-old Young Carer from Wolverhampton who missed a year of school due to limited access at home to online learning says: “I know I speak for many young carers across the country when I say that Covid affected us a lot. I was having to carry the family that much more than before, when at least I had that break of going into school.”
Spurgeons say a combined approach between support services, as well as greater support structures in schools, is the most effective solution to identify hidden young carers. They are calling for all educational settings to have a nominated young carers lead and to work more closely together with carers of ill family members.
Angie Jones, Children’s Services Lead for Spurgeons, says, “There is a general misconception about what a young carer is. We ask ‘what is a young carer?’ in every school we visit and young people will answer, ‘it’s a person who has had a baby really young.’ It isn’t until someone identifies that a young person is caring for their family at home that they realise they’re different and it isn’t what every child does. The earlier a young person is identified as a carer, the more supports can be put in place to give respite, protect their overall wellbeing and to proactively improve their experiences in education. We believe that young carers should have the same chance at a bright future as any other young person.”
Spurgeons are part of the National Young Carers Voice which brings together organisations supporting young carers and young carers themselves. This group have produced a report call ‘Young Carers Rights – Making them real’. The report called for mandatory training for all school staff, including governors to more effectively support young carers, for a young carers lead in every school or college and a system to flag who the individuals are and monitor their attendance and attainment.
Lucy, from Birmingham discovered the term ‘young carer’ at the beginning of the pandemic as her mum’s health conditions worsened. Describing when her teacher recognised her extra caring responsibilities she says, “Before my form teacher said ‘Lucy I think you’re a young carer’ I had no idea what it was, I had never heard of the term or of Young Carers Action Day — I did feel very alone”.
Ian Soars, CEO of Spurgeons says: “Our vision is that young carers are seen as everyone’s responsibility. For schools, other caring professionals and charities such as ourselves to work alongside each other to support those young people who are carrying so much already. We need to identify them earlier and help them to build on their strengths and reach their potential.
“If the life of a 10-year-old includes bathing a sibling or a parent and preparing the family meal, they might not be able get homework done or attend class the next day as ‘fresh- faced’ as their peers, but this doesn’t mean they don’t care, it actually means they’re caring more than anyone. We anticipate investing heavily in this amazing group of people over the coming year, starting with a fundraising campaign over Easter, with every penny earned going towards funding respite care and community for young carers.”
To find out more about how you can support young carers like Lucy and Thomas, go to https://spurgeons.org/young-carers-2022/
*Real name not used to protect identity.