Young carers

Census 2023: Do you know who your young carers are?

January sees the launch of the first formal attempt to identify young carers nationally, explains Andy McGowan, and here's how you can get ready for it

January sees the launch of the first formal attempt to identify young carers nationally, explains Andy McGowan, and here's how you can get ready for it

26 Sep 2022, 5:00

From January, the school census will include young carers for the first time. Schools will record whether a pupil is a young carer, and who identified them as such. The change will provide a much better picture of their number and has the potential to significantly increase awareness, identification and support.

What we know already is that in every classroom there are likely to be at least two pupils who are balancing their studies with caring responsibilities for a parent, sibling, or other family member who is living with a physical or mental illness, disability or addiction.

We also know that over 1,500 children aged five to seven are caring for 50 hours a week or more. A quarter of young carers are bullied because of their caring role, and one-third say their caring role results in them ‘always’ or ‘usually’ feeling ‘worried’, ‘lonely’ or ‘stressed’. Over a quarter (27 per cent) of young carers aged 11 to 15 miss school or experience educational difficulties, and their attainment and access to further education and employment is lower than their peers’ as a result.

More worrying still, our research this year found that young carers start caring an average of three years before being linked into any support. Some had been caring for ten years. On average, they were seven years old when they started.

In a way it’s no surprise they get no support for so long. It’s simply that they don’t realise they are young carers, and until now there has been no attempt to formally identify them.

That’s why it’s vital for professionals to spot the signs. Between six and ten per cent of pupils in any school are likely to be young carers, and more than half of those surveyed by Carers Trust in March (these are the ones we know of) said they seldom or never get help to balance caring with studying.

So what about the ones in your school? Knowing who your young carers are can help ensure they are achieving their full potential by reviewing metrics such as attendance and attainment. Schools already do this for other vulnerable groups, and the change to the census provides the perfect opportunity to do the same for young carers.

Vulnerability is on the up, and schools are already under great pressure from the after-effects of Covid-19 and the growing toll of the cost-of-living crisis. But when it comes to young carers they aren’t on their own, and simple, affordable measures can be highly effective.

Work with others

Local and national charities have been working to identify and support young carers for years. The support of schools in the effort will be hugely beneficial to them and they will want to work with you, be it through awareness-raising sessions for staff and pupils or by providing support for newly-identified young carers.

We’re putting in one place all of our resources to help schools prepare for the census, and the Young Carers in Schools programme provided by The Carers Trust in partnership with The Children’s Society offers tools and resources to get started.

Empower your community

Awareness-raising sessions for staff and pupils are a great place to start, but the next step is to ensure your school has policies and processes in place to identify and monitor young carers, and the earlier the better.

It can be helpful for everyone if there is a clear young carers’ agreement in place (ideally developed with young carers) outlining what support is available. The process of identifying and putting support in place can be well supported by sending information out to parents and through the use tools such as the Multidimensional Assessment of Caring Activities and the Positive and Negative Outcomes of Caring (MACA and PANOC) questionnaires.

Lastly, appointing a staff member as a young carers’ champion, someone pupils can turn to when things are difficult, can make a world of difference.

The addition of young carers to the school census provides a ground-breaking opportunity to improve the identification of and support for young carers, and ultimately their outcomes.

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