Ten young carers from Salford aged between 7 and 12 years old have launched a film they made on issues caused by caring. The film is titled “How young is young?” and was made in partnership with The Lowry. People may be astonished to learn that children as young as this take on caring responsibilities for a parent or a sibling. Their tasks may include cooking, shopping and ensuring that medication is taken. In some cases, the young carer may help with personal care, such as with washing or using the toilet. Such caring tasks have been taken on in Salford by children as young as four years old.
Staff from the Salford Young Carers Service support young carers, giving them much-needed respite from caring. The staff also work with our schools, as it is vital that teachers understand young carers’ issues. Caring responsibilities can make a child late for school or stop them doing homework. Young carers lead different lives from other children, as caring can leave no time for play or after-school activities.
There is work to be done so that all teachers and school staff understand what it means to be a young carer. A survey by the Salford Young Carers Forum found that fewer than four out of ten young carers felt their school understood young carers’ issues and fewer than two out of ten said their school had a young carers’ policy.
Over half the young carers surveyed felt they needed extra support at school but most of them said they did not get it. Over three quarters of them said they had been bullied and most of the bullying happened at school.
We can and must do more to support young carers. In 2012, I brought in a Private Members Bill to require schools and colleges to have policies to identify and support pupils who are young carers. Coalition Government Ministers did not support my Bill, so it could not progress. I will continue to campaign alongside young carers to ensure that we listen to them, understand their issues and offer them more support.