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Young carers could be better supported if no-one made fun of them

“Young carers could be better supported if no-one made fun of them” – This is the opinion of 13-year-old Cara*, who has been caring for her grandma since she was just 8 years old. Her daily tasks include feeding her grandma breakfast, making sure she has the right medication and even taking her grandma to the toilet as she cannot walk on her own. Looking after her grandma is a big responsibility and has affected how Cara spends time with the rest of her family.

“We can’t go anywhere fun as a family because one person has to stay with my grandma as she can’t walk.”

Cara also finds it difficult to socialise with her friends outside of school because of her additional responsibilities.

The social standing of children in school has remained quite unchanged through the years. There are still those students who excel academically, still ones who tease others and still children who act “differently” to the rest of their peers. It is often the case that students who act “differently” can come across problems in school in the form mental or physical bullying from their classmates – but the question is, WHY do these children act differently?

Outside of school, there has been a huge change in the circumstances of many young people – one that is still largely hidden from society. In a survey carried out in 2010, the BBC estimated that there were 700,000 young carers in the UK, up from 175,000 identified in the 2001 census.

The responsibilities experienced by young carers at home can often have an impact on how they perform or present themselves at school. Anxiety and physical tiredness can cause some young carers to retreat into themselves, struggling to build friendships and causing them to feel isolated, whilst others find it difficult to control their emotions, resulting in unexpected outbursts of anger or frustration. Behaviours like this can seem strange to other children or even threatening, which can make young carers the target of bullying.

NRS Healthcare is the UK’s leading provider of Community Equipment, Wheelchair Services, equipment supply and Clinical Services to the NHS and Local Authorities, and their number one focus is to help those who are older or disabled live independently. By offering equipment that can help people to look after themselves, NRS hope to enable young carers across the UK to have more time to enjoy their childhood by making their daily caring duties easier.

NRS Healthcare contacted Sheffield Young Carers (SYC), to ask if any of their members would share what it’s like to be a young carer. Cara was one member of SYC to respond and NRS also received several other case studies – all from young carers aged 10-19. Cara’s suggestion that “Young carers could be better supported if no-one made fun of them” turns out to be Young carers could be better supported if no-one made fun of them”exceptionally relevant, as the case studies showed that:

9 out of 11 (82%) young carers had experienced problems at school as a direct result of their carers role.

Many were often too tired to socialise with their peers, with one young carer in particular noting this caused conflict with her friends who had a “lack of understanding”. Some young carers also mentioned feeling frustrated in school due to worrying about their loved ones they have left at home, causing them to lose focus in class and even disrupt lessons. Poor attendance was also a big factor for many of the young carers, with one 10-year-old admitting he would “act up on being ill” so he could stay at home to look after his Mum.

According to Cara, “It is really important to raise awareness [of young carers] because the more people support us the more the people we care for will get a lot of support.”

In other words, it’s a win, win. By bringing the “hidden army” of young carers in the UK out of the shadows and into the public eye, not only will other children have a better understanding of what their classmates may be going through at home (encouraging them to stop “making fun” of young carers) but young carers loved ones will hopefully receive more support to help them live more independently in their daily lives.

* Name has been changed to protect the young carer’s identity

August LTD
Grahame Gardner
Mr Trax Curtain & Blind Solutions
Inspired Inspirations
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