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Enquire Blog

‘Caring is just what we do’ 

With recent work from the Carers Trust highlighting the often unseen struggle of young carers, Kelly Munro reflects on how schools can support young carers in their community.

The Scottish Government recognise that there are at least 30,000 young carers in Scotland. The number of young carers recorded in schools across Scotland is just over 5,000 and research carried out by Carers Trust and local young carers services show that 1 in 5 children in a class has caring responsibilities.  

Do you have a learner in class who is often worried about a family member, friend or neighbour? Perhaps you have heard them talking about taking on extra duties at home or they haven’t been completing coursework or homework to their usual standard.  Does the learner struggle to attend school trips or take part in extracurricular activities? If any of these sound familiar then they may be a young carer. 

Many young carers remain hidden in educational settings. This could be due to a number of reasons, such as stigma, fear of social work intervention and their family getting split up, bullying, not wanting to be different from their peers, lack of understanding or simply not knowing they have a right to recognition and support.  

What is a young carer?

A young carer is someone aged 18 and under who cares unpaid for a friend or family member who due to illness, disability, a mental health problem or an addiction and cannot cope without their support. Older young carers aged 16- 25 are also known as young adult carers and they may have different support needs to younger carers.

Lack of support

Carers Trust Scotland recently carried out their annual young carers survey, “Being a young carer is not a choice, it’s just what we do”1.  Results highlighted that; 

  • 52% ‘always’ or ‘usually’ feel stressed because of being a young carer or young adult carer. 
  • 49% of respondents in Scotland said that they never or do not often get help in school, college or university to balance caring and education work. A third of overall respondents said they usually or always struggle with that balance. 
  • 32% of respondents in Scotland said there is not often or never someone at their school, college or university who understands about them being a carer.  

“In school, there’s not enough done for young carers and raising awareness of what they do.” Young Carer, Carers Trust Scotland Survey 

The Young Carer Statement

In Scotland, young carers are entitled to recognition and support with their caring responsibilities. The Carers (Scotland) Act 2016 gives every young carer in Scotland the right to a Young Carer Statement.  A Young Carer Statement will help identify and highlight any outcomes and areas of support that the young carer may require. It is the duty of the local authority to offer a Young Carer Statement but the young carer does not have to accept the offer. To find out more about who offers the Young Carer Statement in your area, you can contact your local young carers service or local authority. 

In addition, the Education (Additional Support for Learning) (Scotland) Act 2004 (as amended in 2009) requires Education Authorities to provide additional support to anyone who may be experiencing barriers to learning. This includes young carers.  

Supporting Young Carers in your setting

Carers Trust Scotland in partnership with Education Scotland recently launched ‘Supporting Young Carers in Education’ e-learning activity. Hosted on Education Scotland’s Professional Learning site it is available to all education professionals and has been designed to promote awareness of young carers, how to identify and how to support them. It also includes an overview of the policy landscape.   

The module is made up of three units: identifying young carers, understanding rights and delivering the right support. If you work with young carers then you can register to complete the Modules. If you already have a GLOW account you can just log straight in with your GLOW email. You can even upload it directly into your GTCS/CLD Professional Update Records as the Modules are directly linked to the standards. 

Young Carers in Education Toolkit

Carers Trust Scotland have also developed a ‘Young Carers in Education’ toolkit which provides a handy guide on identifying and supporting young carers in school and covers the legislation relevant to young carers.   

We also offer free in-depth Young Carer Awareness Training to all education, health and social care professionals. 

Further support

There is further support available from local young carers services. These may offer support in a variety of ways including one-to-one sessions, peer group support, short breaks, and various local and national activities.  Additionally help is available from Young Scot who offer a non cash entitlements package. Financial support is also available from the Scottish Government through their Young Carer Grant.  

Our Scotland Summary has shone a light on how young carers in Scotland feel and the lack of support and understanding they feel they receive. Unfortunately, for many, their needs are hidden in the classroom or they feel unable to ask for help or additional support for a number of reasons.  

We hope that by raising awareness of the rights, and needs, of Scotland’s young carers we can support this generation to know their rights and professionals to help uphold them.

Kelly Munro is Education Officer (Primary and Secondary), Carers Trust Scotland.  

If you would like more information about young carers in education and the work of Carers Trust Scotland, email Kelly on kmunro@carers.org 

Further reading and resources

For professionals: To read more about recognising and assessing need, visit our advice for professionals pages: https://enquire.org.uk/professionals/planning-delivering-asl/identifying-and-assessing-needs/

For young people: Our website for young people, Reach, has a range of information and advice about the right to education, the right to support and how to get the support you might night. https://reach.scot/

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