YOUNG carers need better support in schools, claims a Wearside charity.
Sunderland Carers Centre is part of a national campaign, Fair Start, to ensure children looking after a family member are given the help they need.
The campaign, by Carers Trust, the UK’s largest carers’ charity, wants targeted support in schools, via the Pupil Premium, which could help more than 165,000 young carers in England reach their potential and close the gap between them and their peers.
Graham Burt, chief executive of Sunderland Carers’ Centre, said they do a lot of work to engage schools in supporting young carers and there are some examples of good practice.
However, he said: “Some schools are still a long way from understanding the issues around caring and how it can impact on young carers’ education.
“We are currently supporting a young carer who left school at the age of 14. They felt the school saw them as a “naughty” child and didn’t try to understand their role at home supporting their mum who has a mental health illness.
“Leaving school meant they could be there for mum 24/7. But, now aged 19, the young person is unable to read and write, is totally isolated and is not in education, employment or training.
“We know many of the young carers we support miss time from school.
“Often referrals are made to us via education when they become aware that the reason pupils are missing school is because of a caring role. However, not all schools are offering the flexible support these young carers need to maintain and excel within education.”
The Carers Trust said young carers need to be identified early and given support. They say the Pupil Premium, which is given to schools for disadvantaged youngster, is the best way to do this.
Anna Morris, the Carers Trust’s senior policy and development manager for young carers, said: “Carers overall save the country £119billion a year, but young carers, who do so much for others, experience difficulties in their education and routinely achieve less academically than pupils without caring responsibilities.
“Identifying and supporting young carers through the Pupil Premium is a relatively low cost and effective way of helping them.”
“This money could provide young carers with the things they tell us they need in schools, simple things like greater understanding of their responsibilities, someone to talk to who will listen, homework and peer support, and things like the opportunity to phone home and check on a parent.”