Be aware of the young who care
Schools in two North Yorkshire districts have been sent a pack to help teachers identify and support students who care for a sick or disabled relative.
Hambleton & Richmond Carers Centre chose Young Carers Awareness Day (January 25th) on which to distribute the information pack to the seven secondary schools in the area. All primary schools will receive theirs over the next month.
Helen Hunter, CEO of the Northallerton-based H&R Carers Centre, said the idea of the schools pack was not just to make teachers aware that there may be young carers in their classroom, but the pupils too.
“Back in 2010, a BBC survey estimated there were 700,000 young carers in the UK which works out at two per class,” said Helen. “The aim of our schools packs is to create a more accepting and understanding environment where young carers feel safe and confident to share their stories and where they are accepted for who they are and be supported by their peers.”
Included in its contents are ideas for activities and lessons such as a quiz, games and role play – all designed to encourage teachers to raise awareness of the responsibilities and challenges that a young carer might face and how these can impact on their studies and social life.
Case studies are also provided to illustrate this, such as that of Noel (not his real name) who attends a school in the Yorkshire Dales (see below). Helen Hunter said schools were vital in identifying young carers and then in supporting their well-being and development.
“There are often multiple signs that a child or young person may be a young carer. For example, displaying poor behaviour in the classroom,” she said.
“We need schools to train all staff to recognise these signs and to be able to ask the right questions. They also need to designate someone who staff can turn to if they have identified a Young Carer and who can then contact the right agencies – including ourselves – for help in obtaining the right support for the child, both inside and outside the school.” *
Noel had been caring for his older sister, who has autism and displays extreme behaviour patterns, for two years before anyone at school realised that this could be the reason for his own poor attendance and emotional state. Once recognised, staff referred him to H&R Carers Centre which organised appropriate support for Noel within the school setting.
The school agreed to follow any actions and support that the Carers Centre recommended, such as allowing Noel to be excused from lessons, so that he could access this support and giving him ‘time out’ if necessary and someone to talk to.
This one to one support allowed Noel a chance to freely talk about his caring role and the impact of his sister’s behaviour, while his inclusion in groups, trips and activities with other Young Carers enabled him to socialise with other children in similar situations. As a result, there has been a definite improvement in Noel’s mood, attitude and social life.
Initially it was thought that only Noel required support, however after meeting Noel and his family, it became evident that the whole family was close to breaking point due to lack of sleep, Noel’s sisters behaviour, and a very chaotic house.
Other agencies are now involved with the family, providing a wider range of support and advice which allows the family to function more effectively, leaving the Carers Centre to focus on Noel and his needs, knowing that his home situation is much improved.
*H&R Carers Centre provides emotional support, social groups, activities, benefits advice and signposting.
Working in partnership with unpaid carers, it raises awareness of carer issues, contributes to local, regional and national debate and strategy for carers and collaborates with local agencies to strengthen the voice of carers.
For more information, contact:
Tel: 0777 333 4269