Young Carers' Loss
Young carers are often hidden within society and this can be the case within your education setting. Prior to Coronavirus, young carers were spending a lot of their time caring for other individuals in their life which restricts their availability for everything else, including education and learning. The global pandemic has exacerbated those pressures and had a detrimental impact on young carers across the UK.
The Carer’s Trust accrued nearly 1000 responses from Young Carers during the initial lockdown period from their survey, “Hear Me, See Me, Support Me and don’t forget me”, which indicated a steep decline in the mental health and wellbeing of young people across the United Kingdom that have the responsibility for caring for someone in their personal life. The following information is gathered from these responses since the Coronavirus outbreak:
- 40% of young carers advise their mental health is worse
- 66% of young carers are feeling more stressed
- 69% of young carers feel less connected to others
- 58% of young carers are spending, on average, 10 hours a week more on caring responsibilities
- 67% of young carers are more worried about their future opportunities
With this in mind, it is clear that young carers within your education setting will be feeling mixed emotions, with a real sense of loss in various aspects, including loss of their freedoms and their independence as an individual. They have to switch from being a young person to being a carer, and this loss can have a detrimental impact on their wellbeing as evidenced above. This loss can also transcend into education and employment opportunities as they progress through life, with a real sense for some that being a young carer could be a factor in a lack of opportunities.
There have been times during the pandemic that children and young people have had to learn from home and this would have been a particular challenge for young carers, particularly those with siblings where sharing technological devices may be needed. For some young carers, school provides them an opportunity to get a break from their caring role so there may have been a sense of loss regarding home learning.
The next sense of loss that they may experience is related to the person they care for, particularly if they have underlying health issues that have led to them having to shield or take extra precautions to protect their health during the pandemic. This could be a factor in the increased caring hours and may have a detrimental impact on the relationship they have with that person. It can also be a real factor in increased worries around expectant loss, particularly if that person contracts Covid-19. Mental health and wellbeing has been one of the underlying societal issues in the pandemic and this could have caused concern for young carers if it impacted the person they cared for, particularly if there is a pre-existing mental health condition.
Education services can play a pivotal role for young carers feeling supported. This is essentially important in areas such safeguarding, supporting attendance where possible, promoting attainment and most of all, supporting wellbeing. The Carer’s Trust have produced a “Young Carer’s for School – Covid-19 Recovery” document (link below) which provides key messages on how to support these areas.
For a Scottish perspective, the following link provides a library resource of information on how best to support young carers during the global pandemic, including information for families and learning packs for education that are suitable.
In summary, young carers need our support more than ever. The coronavirus pandemic has created higher levels of stress and anxiety within a group of people who were already feeling pressure. It is important that they are supported within education, enabling them to engage, build relationships and have the same opportunities as others as they move through life.