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How to support and identify young carers

A young carer becomes vulnerable where there is an inappropriate or excessive caring role, or  the young carer is not thriving due to the caring role significantly impacting on social and emotional wellbeing or academic achievement.

How to identify a young carer

Every Young Carer is unique and each person’s ability to hide their responsibility can be vastly different, as can the willingness to trust and confide in professionals.  However, there may be some identifying features which may bring care responsibilities to the attention of professionals.

SIGNS to look out for:

  • Anxiety or concern over an ill or disabled relative
  • A need or desire to be in regular contact with home
  • Often late or missing from school
  • Secretive about their home life
  • Often tired, distracted, withdrawn or anxious
  • Low self-esteem and self confidence
  • Isolated or victims of bullying
  • Poor relationship with peers
  • May take on a caring role with younger children
  • May demonstrate confidence when interacting with adults
  • Isolation or withdrawal or behaviour that may be deemed as challenging in a school or youth group situation but is the opposite of behaviour demonstrated at home
  • Back pain or other related pain
  • Outbursts or amplified response to events due to the emotional strain they may be under.

The sooner Young Carers are recognised the easier it is to prevent them from taking on inappropriate levels of care and staff in schools can play a key role in the identification process. A young person may be doing personal care, practical care, emotional care, all of which may impact on their schooling and lives.

Some questions to consider when trying to identify young carers who may need support:

Which of your students…?

  • Regularly arrive late?
  • Regularly miss days?
  • Appear physically neglected, missing breakfast, lacking clean clothes or uniform, etc.
  • Appear to be regularly tired?
  • Regularly complain of aches and pains?
  • Regularly appear withdrawn or anxious?
  • Regularly challenge adult authority? (Some young carers struggle with switching between an adult role at home and a child role at school).
  • Appear more emotionally mature than their peers?
  • Have regular problems concentrating on work?
  • Regularly fail to hand in homework on time?

Which of your parents…

  • Regularly fail to answer communications?
  • Regularly miss parents’ evenings?
  • Are on low incomes, receive Pupil Premium or unable to afford school expenses?

TOP TIPS for supporting young carers in your school –  (WSCC Young Carers Family Service is here to support you with this)

  • Speak to your school’s leadership team about young carer’s issues being discussed in lessons and assemblies (see ideas for activities and lesson plans in this pack).
  • Make it clear to young carers that they (or their families) will not be in trouble because they are helping to look after someone.
  • Have a key person/named contact in school who keeps up to date with young carer’s issues and services in West Sussex so that they can signpost young carers to appropriate support.

Schools can provide support for young carers in three keyways:

  • Providing flexible and sensitive support to the young carer themselves, especially when their role is very stressful.
  • Helping the family, if they’re willing, to contact appropriate services for more support.
  • Consider a multi-agency response if there are complex issues affecting the young person or their family. This reduces the need for the young carer to take on inappropriate levels of care.

Here are some examples of the practical support that schools can provide:

  • Flexible deadlines on schoolwork and offer additional support if necessary.
  • Someone for the young carer to talk to e.g. a counsellor, support staff, class teacher.
  • A young carer ‘identity card’ so young carers can identify themselves and leave lessons without having to explain their situation.
  • Access to a telephone, so a young carer can contact home if they’re worried during the day.
  • Assisting parents with a disability to attend parents’ evenings, making sure meeting rooms are accessible, or communicate with them in some other way e.g. email.
  • Support to access school trips and extra-curricular activities.
  • An in-school support group for young carers.
  • Provide a school noticeboard displaying information on community projects, support and resources available to young carers and their families including the school’s named contact.
  • Consult with identified young carers about their school experience and find out/learn what else your school could put in place.
  • Consider additional support in transition times, for example with the move from primary to secondary school or with College/University applications.
  • Talks on disability, ill-health and caring as part of PSHE or assembly, to raise awareness amongst students.
  • A young carers champion e.g. school nurse, who is ‘visible, accessible, and confidential’.

Your school can receive an award from the Carers Trust for the work it does with and on behalf of young carers and their families. For more information go to:

Last updated 16 August 2021

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