Yesterday my office attended the monthly Attendance Action Alliance. One of the groups we discussed was young carers and how they can be supported to attend school.
For Carers Week 2022, I published a blog post setting out a summary of my vision for support for young carers. On 15 June, I published the findings from my Attendance Audit, my exploration across 10 local authorities of the experiences of children who are not attending school regularly or who are out of school altogether.
The report, ‘Voices of England’s Missing Children’, details the solutions and practical ideas the young people and my team have identified that can make a real difference.
One ambition in the report, ‘let children be children’ is dedicated to young carers and children who are taking on roles within their family which are beyond their years. I am calling for, among other things, all schools to have a young carers policy and a young carers champion. A young carers champion is an adult within the school who can be an ambassador for young carers, making sure that they have support that they need to navigate both their education and their caring responsibilities.
Young carers have reached out to me through Caring Together and the Young Carers Alliance, to explain in their own words why they need young carers champions, and what a difference it can make when they have that support. I have shared their voices below.
Why young carers need a young carers champion
As the anonymised quotes below show, in our work we have heard from children who want young carers to have more of a voice.
“I think it is needed because most people/students don’t know about young people needing to care for someone, they are not educated to know”
“Ambassadors can help teach people about young carers. Sometimes things happen and people don’t know what to do about it. It’s good to know who you can go to if needed. An ambassador should be a young carer that knows what you’ve been through… I would love to be a young carer ambassador and teach people”
“So many young carers feel unseen and unheard at school. I believe that having a Young Carer Champion, a teacher each young carer knows is in their corner would increase their confidence and wellbeing hugely.”
“I think students will be more at ease when opening up about caring roles, as they will have that one person to go to that fully understands their background without having to explain it to multiple different people”
“Having a young carer champion in every school may help some students understand they are a young carer. It could also help other students understand how to support young carers. Everyone has room to learn about the responsibilities of young carers and this would help create a more caring environment”
“Young carers are the strongest and kindest people in the world. Both students and teachers should know about young carers because they might be having a hard time at home or struggling in school. Schools and colleges should now about them so that they can support them as much as they possibly can” [sic]
The difference a young carers champion makes:
And we heard from young carers about the difference that having a voice can make, as the quotes below show.
“The school has given me much more support and I am able to express how I feel” – Young carer.
“I’ve had people to support me through some of the worst times in my life. And through some of the best” – Young carer.
“I can relate to others like me in my age group and we can discuss our lives as young caters and how it has affected us, this has improved my mental health. I feel more relaxed and not so stressed all the time.” – Young carer.
“So much difference -I feel supported and not alone” – Young carer
My Back Into School web pages contain lots of resources for schools to improve their young carers provision as well as resources for young carers. I will continue to advocate for young carers and explore further how they and their families can be supported through my Independent Family Review.