Dorset Child Carers "Missing Out on School and Childhood"
10:22am 16th May 2014
A children’s charity has warned a high number of young people in Dorset are missing school time because they're caring for a loved one at home.
Data released this morning (Friday 16th May) by the Children's Society shows there are 834 unpaid young carers in the county, the 7th highest number in the South West region.
While juggling the daily challenges of life and growing up among their peers these young children can do any amount of other tasks, like washing and cooking, for typically a parent or sibling who has a health issue.
The Society, along with other children’s charities, say the Dorset numbers are not only shocking but just the "tip of the iceberg".
Details in the report revealed 1 in 10 young carers can't make school and are missing out on their childhoods because of the demands placed on them. It also found 25% are bullied leading to serious concerns over their education and level of learning.
The Children's Society say more needs to be done and they've launched a project called, The Young Carers in Schools Programme, which they say will "help" Dorset schools better understand and support child carers.
Dr Sam Royston says these young carers need help;
"Just understanding the social circumstances and the personal circumstances those children are facing in their home life, can enable Schools to be more flexible, for example on homework needs."
"We know that many young carers find themselves very socially isolated as a result of the caring role and our programme can enable the School to make sure that they're providing the services those young carers need, so they're more socially included in and out of the School day."
A large number of Schools in Dorset have a special set-up to help young carers and give them allowances when they haven't finished homework or struggle to cope in class.
St Mary's C of E School in Puddletown has a dedicated support zone for pupils who may be young carers. Deputy Head Teacher Jo Thomas told us it's so important they're recognised and given help when they need it;
"It's important to be aware of all of the children, and in particular young carers. We make special provision and allow them extra time to complete work and have some time out as well."
Jo says their Contact Zone is an area where the children can study, feel safe, and do the work they don't have time to do at home.
Dr Sam Royston says a challenge Schools face is identifying young pupils who're caring for someone;
"Many young carers do find this a very difficult thing to talk about but get a huge amount of benefit when they do finally come forward and are identified by their School.
One young carer said to us, finally admitting to their teacher what was going on at home was the bravest thing they'd ever done ... That was the point when things finally changed for them."
If you're a School or local authority you can find out more on the Young Carers School Programme by clicking here.