Young carers face bullying at school

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A quarter of young adult carers have experienced bullying at school because of their caring role.

The figures come from the Carers Trust, which is highlighting the plight of young carers as part of a new campaign to raise funds to give them a break from their caring roles.

Research conducted last year, but published alongside the launch of the campaign this week, looks at the experiences of almost 300 young adult carers aged 14 to 25 and focuses specifically on those who are still at school.

It found that 38 per cent of the school-aged young carers, who had an average age of 15.5, reported having a mental health problem, while only half said they had received additional support from a member of staff within their school.

Around two-thirds said they had told school staff about their caring role, but just 15 per cent had received a formal review or assessment of their needs. A majority felt there was “no point” telling anyone at school.

The report, entitled Young Adult Carers at School, urges schools to embed into their policies a “clear framework of support for young carers”, including appointing named carer leads to help these students.

Elsewhere, the report also found that these young carers missed around half-a-day of school every two weeks because of their responsibilities and were late to school an average of 1.4 times every fortnight.

As such, it recommends having “absence due to caring role” as a specific category of absence, while schools are urged to consider and review what systems they have in place to identify young carers in the first place.

The report states: “More needs to be done by schools to restore children’s and young people’s confidence and establish systems through which young and young adult carers can inform staff and receive the support that they need.”

One of the headline findings of the research was the extent to which young carers have been bullied – 26 per cent of the respondents said that they had been bullied at school because of their caring role.

Iona, a young adult carer aged 18 from Helensburgh, was bullied during her time at school. She said: “The bullying started in primary school and went all the way through secondary. It was verbal not physical but it was relentless. 

“At first, I stopped going out as much, then I stopped going out altogether. My attendance at school suffered and it affected all of my future plans. The abuse affected me mentally and I found it very difficult to cope. I felt things started to fall out of place, rather than into place for me.”

The Carers Trust has this week launched Britain’s Best Breakfast, a campaign aiming to raise money to help support unpaid carers of all ages across the country.

The campaign is encouraging people to hold breakfast events in October to raise money for the charity’s network of Carers Centres and support schemes. 

Thea Stein, chief executive of Carers Trust, said: “Returning to study after the summer break can be daunting for many young people but imagine being a young carer or a young adult carer who not only has to get themselves ready for school, often having been woken through the night, but also has to get the person that they care for, and possibly other family members ready, for the day ahead. And then having finally reached school, to know that it’s not a safe place to be because of the bullying.

“Many young carers tell us that they are exhausted even before they get to school or college. This means that they are tired and less likely to concentrate on school work. They often struggle with finding the time to do homework too and we know that young adult carers between 16 and 18-years-old are twice as likely to not be in education, employment or training. And of course, our report shows that many of them are bullied, making life as a young carer very, very difficult.”

For more on the campaign, visit www.britainsbestbreakfast.org, and for more on the charity itself, see www.carers.org


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