Four in 10 teachers are not able to identify a young carer in their class, children’s charity Barnardo’s has found.
Teachers and other professionals working with children have a legal duty to identify young carers and refer them to the local authority to be assessed for support.
But 40 per cent of the 808 teachers polled by the charity said they were not confident that they would recognise a young carer in their class.
Of those polled, 34 per cent said there were young carers at their school who are not sufficiently supported, and 29 per cent do not think their school has any particular methods for supporting young carers.
The survey also asked young carers if they could estimate the number of hours a week they spent on caregiving. A quarter said their care responsibilities take up over 30 hours of their time every week, which is almost the equivalent of a full-time job.
This work involves tasks such as cooking, cleaning and shopping, as well as intimate personal care, administering drugs and taking care of household finances.
Paul Whiteman, the general secretary of headteachers’ union NAHT, said schools needed to be aware of young carers’ circumstances, which were often “extremely challenging”.
“These families can be some of the most isolated from the wider school community, making it harder to pick up the warning signs in the playground or at parents evenings, for example,” he said/
Whiteman repeated the NAHT’s desire that young carers are automatically registered for the pupil premium, to help schools meet their needs.
“They should get this support automatically, particularly as the person they are caring for may not be able to apply for the money themselves,” he said. “The additional funding would help schools to properly resource the ways in which they can identify and help young carers.”
Of the teachers surveyed, 75 per cent said that most or all of the young carers they saw at school suffered from anxiety, depression, isolation and feelings of anger. Every teacher said they had worked with children who had self-harmed.
Ninety per cent of teachers feel that caring responsibilities impacted negatively on young carers’ school lives, perhaps by making them late or absent from school, or preventing them from completing their schoolwork.
The chief executive of Barnardo’s, Javed Khan, said the burden on child carers is “simply not acceptable”.
“Austerity has meant local authorities have had to cut back on adult social care and the result is children are picking up the pieces,” he said. “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.”