Charities supporting around half a million young carers across the UK have found that young adult carers miss an average of 48 school days a year due to their role. They are also four times more likely to drop out of college or university than a young person who isn’t in a caring role.
Young adult carers are likely to achieve a grade less at GCSE than their peers – 35% had not informed their school and 25% hadn’t told their college or university that they were a carer. The research further shows that one in 12 young people at school are young carers – that’s two per class.
During Carers Week 2015, the six charities driving the week called on teaching professionals to take note of the vast army of young carers and young adult carers who are providing practical and emotional support to their sick or disabled family members, to demonstrate how they are building carer-friendly communities by ensuring they receive the support they need.
Carers Week is an annual awareness campaign which takes place to celebrate and recognise the vital contribution made by the UK’s 6.5 million carers. It is also a time of intensive local activity with thousands of events planned for carers across the UK.
The charities highlighted the lack of identification of young carers and young adult carers which leaves them without support. Carers Trust has written to every local authority in the UK to ask them what they are doing to support young adult carers, while primary and secondary schools are being urged to join the Young Carers in Schools Awards, after 15 schools that demonstrated how they have supported young carers were given awards for their commitment.
Gail Scott-Spicer, CEO of Carers Trust, said: “The life of a young carer is very stressful as they are constantly juggling their school and college work with caring for a parent or sibling, and when exam time comes around the pressure can sometimes be unbearable. That is why we want teaching professionals and anyone working with young people to consider whether they could be a young carer and help give them the support they need.
“They may be late for school or university, miss classes, fall asleep in the class, not quite make the grade because they haven’t had a chance to study or lack concentration in class because they are thinking about the person they care for. Staff can empathise and help them to work out a programme which helps them to reduce the stress in an already busy and complicated lifestyle.”
Nineteen year-old student and carer Becky said she could identify with many of the signs of being a carer: “I strongly believe that young carers should have further support throughout education, in particular in colleges and university. Studying at university is hard enough but with added extras going on at home it can be a very stressful time. If more support was available at this level more carers would feel they can achieve their goals to get the career they wish to pursue.”
Carers Week is made possible by Carers UK joining forces with Age UK, Carers Trust, Independent Age, Macmillan Cancer Support and MS Society.