Youth carers in school

SG Newsletter Exclusive: Young Carers in Schools – 6 Tips to Identify and Support Them

Young Carers don’t wear a badge to identify themselves – so how do we identify and support them in our settings?

In this blog, Education Adviser Jo Perrin asks how your systems recognise and support susceptible children and whether our staff notice potential issues of concern.

She invites you to consider how the policies we practice truly support young carers and whether we can create “champions” for these children in our setting.

How to Identify and Support Young Carers in Schools

  1. Train Your Staff to Know What a Young Carer is

A young carer is a person under 18 who looks after a relative with a disability, physical or mental illness, or substance misuse issue. They undertake ongoing physical tasks or provide long-term emotional support to adults, going above and beyond what a typical peer might do.

  1. Explain it is a Safeguarding Issue

These young carers can be vulnerable, and it is an Early Help issue mentioned in KCSIE. Children might be subject to age-inappropriate expectations, experience a lack of socialisation, attendance and academic progress might be impacted.

They could also suffer from emotional wellbeing problems and physical issues such as a lack of sleep. Their needs are possibly neglected.

  1. Recognise Some Young People Might Not Identify as a Young Carer

Up to 1 in 5 children may be a young carer, but it can be hard to identify. Some adult illnesses are hidden disabilities so it might not be obvious. Some young people will hide it as they don’t want to stand out as different from their peers, and some young carers don’t know that their life is significantly different to their peers as it’s typical for them.

Unless we regularly ask children about their lived experiences and show curiosity, some children just don’t think we’d be interested, and they might have been brought up to keep professionals at bay.

Stigma in society about “child labour” in any circumstances means some families won’t talk for fear of being judged.

  1. Notice Any Unusual Signs and Symptoms and Record Them

Whilst there is no checklist of what you might notice, as professionals we need to be alert to changes to behaviours, comments we hear or things we observe which might indicate a child has taken on more excessive caring responsibilities in the home.

We can then be professionally curious. This might include a child who is:

  • Tired or withdrawn.
  • Late or absent more.
  • Socially less confident with peers than with adults.
  • Submitting homework late or it is incomplete.
  • Anxious and seems to have poor health and diet. The child may be secretive about home life, and parents don’t engage with school.
  1. Take Positive Steps to Promote the Support You Offer to Young Carers

You can implement certain acts and strategies to show you actively support young carers. For example:

  • You could have staff who are “young carers’ champions” to liaise in cases where there is lateness or homework isn’t completed.
  • You can work to promote positive images of illness and disability and the role of carers in society as a viable career.
  • Monitor the progress of known young carers as a specific group in your setting, as you would children with an EHCP or children with a CP Plan.
  • Make accommodations as necessary, so if a child needs to use a phone to contact home at lunch to prevent the child from truanting the afternoon to check on relatives, then allow it.
  • Ensure your policies reflect the lives and experiences of young carers and support them fully – are they eligible for pupil premium, and how do you use this funding for this group?
  1. Remember to Get the Voice of the Child

No two home situations will be the same, so include the voice of individuals. What might feel supportive to one family might feel patronising to another. Be aware that home situations can change frequently, and support children through this.

Provide Better Support for Young Carers in School

At Services For Education, we provide multi-award-winning CPD and training from ex-DSLs and teachers. So, if you’d like further guidance and resources to successfully identify and support young careers in schools, explore our range of safeguarding courses today.

About the Author

Jo PerrinJo Perrin - Adviser, Services For Education

Jo Perrin is a seasoned Education Adviser with a strong background in safeguarding. She has held key roles as a Designated Safeguarding Lead and pastoral lead in the education sector. Facilitating training to enhance the knowledge and skills of professionals working directly with children and young people is her passion.

With a wealth of experience in teaching PSHE and expertise in childhood trauma from her time as a foster carer, Jo is dedicated to supporting organisations that work with children and vulnerable adults on safeguarding issues. She is actively involved in professional safeguarding groups in the West Midlands and is currently collaborating on a research project with colleagues from the University of Birmingham and the NHS focusing on FGM awareness within communities. Jo’s has worked as a West Midlands' Adviser for national PSHE resources, presented at the Sex Education Forum National Members' Event and authored an advertorial for PSM magazine and an article for SEND magazine.

Jo's expertise extends to training on topics such as Safer Recruitment and Mental Health at Work. She is also a facilitator for the nationally recognised NPQSL qualification, supporting senior leaders in education. Her contributions to publications and development of resources for RSE provision have been well-received by schools nationally and internationally.

With her extensive experience and dedication to professional development, Jo Perrin is a highly respected figure in the field of education. Her guidance on safeguarding, mental health awareness, personal development, and relationships education is highly valued within the industry.

NEED SAFEGUARDING SUPPORT AT YOUR SCHOOL?

Our expert advisers can provide in-school visits to deliver sessions on any specific safeguarding issues that are relevant to your setting. We also offer consultancy and a detailed safeguarding audit. We will work with you to understand your exact requirements.

Get in touch with us today if you’d like to discuss bespoke Safeguarding training for your school.

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