Advice for Professionals

If you are a professional looking for information about young carers, browse through our pages below. Feel free to contact us if you require any more information as we’re happy to help!

We are the single provider of services for young carers across Wigan borough and our Support Workers regularly attend multi agency meetings up to child protection level.

Since the implementation of the Children and Families Act 2014, it is vital that we get the message across to all professionals about what we do to support this vulnerable group of children in our society and to ensure that everyone is Young Carer Aware.

What is a Young Carer?

A young carer is a child or young person (up to the age of 18) who helps to care for a relative who has a disability, chronic illness, mental illness, sensory impairment or who suffers from the problematic use of drugs or alcohol. The level of care they provide may vary from day to day, but may be physical or practical assistance or most importantly emotional support. As a consequence, a young carer’s lives may become adversely affected by the responsibility of caring and they will benefit from early identification and recognition of their circumstances.

From the 2001 Census, there were 178,000 young carers registered in England and Wales. However, there is also the often cited 700,000 figure for young carers in the UK, which came from a study by the BBC and University of Nottingham (2010). This equates to 1 in 12 students in every secondary school.

What do Young Carer’s do?

For many professionals, there is enough to think about in day to day. There are enough pupils who flag up as needing extra help and support, without worrying about the quiet ones, the ones who may be late in school sometimes, have the odd days off, but do their best to catch up. There is enough to do advising those parents who come to parent’s evening, without worrying about the ones who never seem to get there. But these children may need your help. They may be some of the UK’s ‘hidden young carers’.

The person they care for is often a parent, but it could be a grandparent or a brother or sister. Young carers may be caring for a lone parent and may also be affected by poverty related dependence on disability benefits, living in low socio economic conditions which adversely impact their life chances.

How can we identify Young Carers?

A young carer may be doing household tasks like shopping, cooking or looking after younger children, or they may be feeding, toileting and bathing their relative, administering medication or providing ongoing emotional support. Over the years, our charity has seen children as young as five with quite significant caring roles; a role that is heavily ingrained within their family dynamics and it is only when a crisis hits, that this comes to the attention of professionals.

They may be getting lots of help, or they may be doing all of the caring alone, having never spoken to anyone about what they are doing. Their friends may not even realise that they are a young carer, let alone their teachers. They may not have many friends and may be prone to being bullied, standing out as ‘different’ from their peers. This is particularly likely if their relative has an illness which may have a stigma attached to it, like mental ill health or problematic use of drugs and alcohol.

Are there any Young Carers in my area?

It is difficult to know how many young carers there are because they are hidden from view, often afraid to ask for help. Breaking down figures from the Census 2011, it was estimated that they were over 1600 young carers in the Wigan borough, but this is likely to be an under estimation.

As a charity, we have over 700 young carers between the ages of 5-24 registered with us, but there is more to be done to raise awareness and to ensure that these young people are recognised and supported at an early age.

How can we identify Young Carers?

You may be able to identify some young carers through the information already held in your records – for example information about parents’ special needs or disability. Or you may become alerted to a problem because a particular young person is often tired during the day. Young carers have been described as ‘permanently worried’ children by national research. Some children who care may present as withdrawn whilst others may have behavioural problems. Every single young carer has a unique set of issues to deal with and no case is identical.

Of course, there are many young carers who are very adept at disguising the problems that they face – who get up in the night to finish homework in order to avoid being singled out as different or failing. This may be because they are afraid of what might happen if they are identified. They may fear that their parent will be ‘put into care’ if they let someone know what is happening at home. They may also be anxious that they will be shunned or teased by their peers if they are open about their home situation. For some young carers, school may be the only place where they can participate in ordinary children’s activities. They may work extra hard so as not to draw attention to themselves and their situation.

The important thing is that staff are aware of young carers and they use their existing skills to talk to children and young people in a sensitive way and encourage them to open up about any difficulties at home. In the same way that schools usually deal with subjects like drug awareness or personal health and social development, they could raise disability issues, which might lead to young carers identifying themselves and realising that they are not alone. Knowing that staff have some awareness may lead them to seek help, particularly if there is a named person that they can talk to.

Practical steps you can take to help Young Carers

Many young carers would like to have access to a phone if their relative is feeling particularly unwell one day, so that they can phone and check on them at lunchtime. Can young carers use the office phone, in some privacy, at lunchtime for this purpose? This may mean that they have the confidence to come to school rather than be tempted to stay at home.

Provide the opportunity for a young carer to discuss their personal situation with you, if that is their wish.

Can you be flexible about homework deadlines if there is a real crisis?

Can you introduce disability awareness into the PHSE curriculum?

Mention young carers in any liaison meetings that you already have with your local Education Welfare Officer,

Social Worker or Health Visitor. – be Young Carer Aware in any multi disciplinary meetings?

Remember that young carers may have all the problems to deal with that other young people will be facing as well as their caring situation. It is possible that their relative may not be able to discuss these problems with the young carer. Be prepared to offer reassurance that support is available to them and that you are there to help faciliate this.

How can you help Young Carers?

Emotional support for the young Person

For many young carers, just having someone to talk to may be all that they need or want. Just knowing that they can sound off to you without being judged may make their situation better.

Just having someone there to listen to them, to hear their opinions and understand how they may be feeling, without interfering or offering advice may be enough.

Many carers say that no one ever asks how they are. It’s always ‘ How’s mum?’ Ask how the young carer is.

Once a relationship is built up, you could ask the young carer if they would like you to get them some more information or find out about local support. But if they say no, respect their opinion.

Reassure them that you will not go behind their back. You could say that if they change their mind, you would be quite happy to help. (If you feel that they are at risk of harm in their situation, stick to your school’s policy procedures. If you have to do this, keep the young carer informed. They deserve to know what is happening.)

Obtaining relevant information

The young carer may need information about their relative’s disability or illness. There are associations covering most illnesses and disabilities. You may find the information via national websites or the young carer could go to see their doctor, or maybe the school nurse could get some information for them.

Contact Wigan & Leigh Young Carers here for more information and guidance.