The main issues
The number of young carers in Manchester is not known, and has been estimated at more than 16,000.
Experience elsewhere shows that young carers can be as young as 3 or 4, and although legally at age 18 they move from being a ‘young carer’ to ‘adult carer’, many young people still need support. So we refer to 16-25 year olds as young adult carers.
As with other carers, young carers face their own particular situations and challenges. But it is common among young carers to experience the following (from Be Bothered by Manchester Young Carers Forum:
“Overall, our main issue for young carers is stress. In a young carer’s day-to-day life, there are many situations that can be quite stressful. That is why we have broken down the main issue into factors. These include: finance, support in education, time and space, entertainment and understanding our role.
A lot of young carers can experience stress from lack of finance. It is unlikely the person they care for can go to work, so they tend to rely heavily on government finances. This means they don’t have money for luxuries and sometimes won’t have enough money for the necessities. This means they struggle to live like many of their peers and do things that other people their age may and can get to do. On top of this, it can mean they struggle in school as they may not have money to buy things like bus passes or revision guides.
SUPPORT IN EDUCATION
As young carers we have big responsibilities and sometimes our schools and colleges don’t know about our caring role at home. This means that we may be sanctioned for things such as being late or not doing homework, even when it is because of our caring role. Furthermore, because of low attendance and punctuality we don’t have the opportunities to perform well in exams compared to our peers. Moreover, we can struggle to stay focused during lesson time because of our home circumstances. Depending on whether or not other young people know about the young carers role, we can also be bullied because of it.
TIME AND SPACE
As young carers, we often don’t get much alone time. We have no time to ourselves to relax, meet friends or do the things we enjoy. This often means we don’t get to develop our talents or skills. Moreover, young carers sometimes lose friends because they don’t understand why you can’t go and meet up with them. Furthermore, as young carers, we often don’t have any space to escape to in order to get work done or relax.
As young carers, we often don’t get to do fun things. This can mean we miss out on many childhood experiences. Our peers get to have experiences with their friends and family, that as young carers we could never dream of. We miss out on opportunities that other young people would consider normal.
UNDERSTANDING OUR ROLE
One of the biggest things that we as young carers face is that we feel nobody understands what we do in our caring roles or why we have to do it at all. This can put young carers into many uncomfortable situations. Other young people have not been educated on what a young carer is. This could mean not only that we face the ignorance of people that don’t understand us, but that other young people with caring responsibilities might not even realise they are young carers and that they have entitlements.”
What’s in place already
Several schools are working towards the Young Carers in Schools award, based on:
- UNDERSTAND There are assigned members of staff with responsibility for understanding and addressing young carers needs.
- INFORM Awareness is raised by sharing knowledge about disability, illness and young carers throughout the school.
- IDENTIFY Young carers are being identified within your school.
- LISTEN They are listened to, consulted with and given time and space to talk.
- SUPPORT Young carers are supported within the school, and signposted to whole family resources and services outside the school.
More about the programme and award here: http://www.youngcarer.com/
What you need to know
If young carers are not high on your school or college’s agenda, they should be. Quite simply, young carers are under-recognised and under-supported. Whether you know who they are or not, there will be young carers in your school or college. And without information or support, at least some of them are likely to either struggle to balance their caring role with studying and/or become unwell. Knowing who your young carers are is the first step. Listen to them and find ways of working with them and supporting them both as individuals and, as some schools have done, in young carers groups.
Young adult carers (age 16-25) face the additional challenges of transition post-18.