Schools 'jeopardise young carers' futures'

By Gabriella Jozwiak, Friday 07 September 2012

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Schools are putting young carers’ futures at risk by providing too little support, a report by Family Action has warned.

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The report found concentration in class is often impacted by caring roles. Image: Becky Nixon

According to the report, Be Bothered! Making School Count for Young Carers, the "closed culture" in educational institutions has become a barrier to supporting young carers, who are sometimes punished by teachers that misunderstand their caring roles.

The charity said schools need to take a more proactive role in identifying and helping young carers, whose attendance, behaviour and concentration in the classroom are often affected by their caring duties.

Rhian Beynon, head of policy and campaigns at Family Action, said schools need to step up support for children.

“The report is called Be Bothered! because we think a lot of teachers and schools aren’t bothered about what’s happening outside the school gates,” she said. “That’s not the way we’re going to successfully tackle the problems with attendance and exclusion.”

A survey by the charity, which questioned more than 120 education professionals, parents and young carers, found 72 per cent of teachers did not know the number of young carers in their school and over 64 per cent were unaware of the number of young carers in their classroom.

Young carers involved in the research said they felt stigmatised by teachers, with almost half saying their school work had suffered as a result of being a carer. Only 56 per cent said they felt more supported after disclosing details of their caring role to their school.

Beynon also suggested that an increase in government focus on tackling poor attendance and bad behaviour in schools is aggravating the situation. “Behaviour is a big buzz word around children and young people at the moment,” she said.

“A lot of stigmatisation is going on about children and young people, including from government and the troubled families programme, but what we’re not hearing with the rhetoric is that there are families out there struggling because they need support.”

According to Action for Family Carers, 230,000 young adult carers aged 18 to 24 were identified in 2011, with 61,000 16- and 17-year-olds classed as young carers.

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