Young Carer Action Day on 15 March is a special one for young carers in Wiltshire this year because four schools in the county have become the first to be presented with a Young Carer Friendly Award, which recognises the support they have put in place for the young carers in their school communities.
Carer Support Wiltshire, a charity which supports unpaid carers of all ages, created the award in partnership with the Wiltshire Healthy Schools programme. It sets out criteria for schools to meet that help to identify and support young carers, such as having a designated carer lead and offering regular opportunities for young carers to come together and provide peer-to-peer support.
The four schools that have been involved with the award and who this week found out they have successfully met the required criteria are: Studley Green and The John of Gaunt School in Trowbridge; Longleaze School in Royal Wootton Bassett and Wellington Academy in Tidworth.
Sarah Hill is Pastoral Support Manager at John of Gaunt in Trowbridge. She says: “It was a privilege to work on the pilot for the Young Carer Friendly Award and to receive recognition that as a school we provide a high level of support to our Young Carers. Working with these young people so intensively means that we can provide individualised support that will meet their needs and allow them to achieve their full potential academically, opening up huge possibilities going into early adulthood.
“We’ve got about 45 registered young carers here. One of the major things we’ve introduced is a young carers club which runs on a Monday and all of our young carers from year 7 to 11 attend that group. It’s a social group and, in the mornings after maybe a busy weekend, they can get together and chat and support each other. We have sheets they complete to tell us how they’re feeling and what they need support with in school.”
One of these registered young carers at the school is Katie. She says: “I care for mum and my younger three siblings. I attend the school’s Young Carers Club because I get to speak to other young carers who understand my situation.” Lills is another student at the school. She says: “I look after my dad and my sister. The school has supported me by giving me the chance to speak with other young carers and time when I don’t have to worry about my dad.”
Studley Green Primary School in Trowbridge have also been successful in meeting the requirements for the award. Mrs Verity Andriopoulou is Carers Lead at the school. She says:
“We are thrilled with this award. Taking part has made a real difference to how we support young carers in the school. We now have a much more holistic approach to supporting these pupils. It’s enabled more young carers to come froward who wouldn’t have done previously.”
Jacqui Radford, Operations Manager at Carer Support Wiltshire says:
“As shown by new research carried out for Young Carer Action Day, hours spent caring for someone on top of daily schoolwork and revision for exams can have a real impact on children’s health and wellbeing, sometimes leaving young people feeling overwhelmed. “We know from talking to young people that this doesn’t have to be the case and there are some key things that will leave them feeling happier and supported.”
The theme for this year’s Young Carer Action Day is ‘Make Time for Young Carers’. Carers Trust survey results released for Young Carer Action Day show 51% of young carers and young adult carers in the UK are caring for between 20 and 49 hours a week. The work they do is also intensifying with 56% saying the time they spent caring increased in the last year and 47% reporting they now care for more people than they used to.
The survey showed that 44% of respondents ‘always’ or ‘usually’ feel stressed and 28% say there is ‘not often’ or ‘never’ someone at their school, college or university who understands about them being a carer. But young carers said some things could help them, including if adults could make time for them. They said they need professionals and responsible adults to listen to them about the challenges they face and then spend time putting the support they need in place.
Carer Support Wiltshire can be contacted on 0800 181 4118 and information found at carersupportwiltshire.co.uk.