The burden of home care in Dorset often lies with children

SCHOOL HELP: Children’s Society chief executive Matthew Reed

SCHOOL HELP: Children’s Society chief executive Matthew Reed

First published in News Dorset Echo: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter

IT’S Carers Week and the Dorset Echo is taking an in-depth look into the world of the tens of thousands of known unpaid carers in the county.

Carers Week 2014 runs until Sunday and is an annual awareness campaign which takes place to recognise the vital contribution made by the UK’s 6.5million carers.

There are 50,000 unpaid carers in Dorset who are there for a loved one facing ill health or disability.

And three in five of us will become a carer at some point in our lives, providing unpaid care to someone we know who is ill, frail or disabled.

Today we will take a look at the startling number of children across the county, who are aged under 16, and risk their education and their childhood to care for a loved one.

THERE are more than 800 Dorset children aged under 16 who provide unpaid care for their parents, siblings and family members.

And Dorset County Council says there are a total of 2,460 young people aged under 24 who provide unpaid care.

The burden of having to care can have serious consequences for children’s education and more needs to be done – and the figures are set to rise in the South West.

Figures provided by census data released on March 16 last year revealed that there were 834 young carers, aged under 16, living in Dorset with 11,260 in the South West.

The latest Census data shows there are 166,363 children in England caring for their parents, siblings and family members.

The burden of having to care can have serious consequences for children’s education and more needs to be done.

According to The Children’s Society one in 12 young carers spends more than 15 hours a week looking after a parent or sibling.

Charities are launching statistics to show the extent of young carers in every part of the country.

Recent analysis reveals that young carers are lagging behind in school and missing out on their childhoods because of the demands placed on them.

Around one in 20 young carers miss school because of the amount of support they have to provide at home.

Young carers also have significantly lower educational attainment at GCSE level – the equivalent to nine grades lower overall than their peers.

A quarter of young carers were bullied because of their caring role.

The Children’s Society’s chief executive Matthew Reed said: “An alarming amount of young carers in your area are having their lives turned upside down, juggling school work and looking after their loved ones.

“We care passionately about their welfare and exposing the scale of the issue is simply not enough.

“That is why we are working with schools to improve the support these young carers get so that it is consistent across the country.

“One young carer slipping under the radar is one young carer too many.”

The Children’s Society and the Carers Trust have worked alongside other charities to prevent tens of thousands of children from slipping under the radar of teachers in classrooms up and down the country – because of a far-reaching new schools programme.

The Young Carers in Schools Programme will provide education staff with resources and training to make sure young carers get vital support.

The organisations involved – Carers Trust, The Children’s Society and Young Carers in Focus – reveal more alarming data about the struggle young carers are facing.

Thea Stein, chief executive of Carers Trust, said: “This programme will help schools to stop and think about how taking on the responsibilities of caring impacts on every aspect of a young carer’s life.

“We will be working closely with schools to ensure they have the guidance, resources and training they need to support young carers and ensure they can achieve their potential.”

Schools can apply for a bronze, silver and gold Young Carers in Schools Award, as part of the programme.

Schools and local authorities interested in taking part in the programme should visit youngcarer.com/ycinschools

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