On Young Carer’s Awareness day (30th January 2020), we visited a secondary school in the Royal Borough of Greenwich (RBG), to speak to pupils who are also carers. Our workshop with 12 young carers discussed their health concerns, and how young people can influence the design and delivery of health and care services that affect them.
- Young carers are worried about their health, specifically mental health, and the emotional stress associated with problems getting to school on time, school absences and accessing other services, such as GP appointments.
- Young carers find it challenging to access healthcare and meet school commitments. Young carers are often responsible for taking loved ones for GP and hospital appointments which are always during the day, during school hours. Unavoidable healthcare appointments increased school absence, creating more anxiety for young carers.
- Raising mental health awareness among young people in schools could reduce feelings of isolation for young carers. Offering additional support to pupils living with significant stress would enable them to manage both their caring roles and educational needs. Suggestions from young carers included regular assemblies on mental wellbeing, providing advice and information on how to get support.
- Most young carers are keen to take part in activities to influence the design and delivery of health and care services they, and their loved ones, use. Most said they have never been offered the opportunity to do so.
The young carers we spoke to had significant, additional pressures and more responsibilities than non-carers. They must make daily decisions on how to prioritise conflicting responsibilities, such as supervising their loved ones taking medication and caring for siblings, with their own need to attend school and maintain a supportive social life. Young carers told us they had had little guidance on how to do this, with most learning as they go along. Our young carers described the impact of this on their mental health, success in education and ability to form meaningful relationships with their peers.