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Protecting Young Carers from Bullying: A Guide for Schools, Community Groups and Policy Makers

January 24, 2017

young-carersMore than two thirds of young carers report bullying at school – many simply because they care for a loved one at home. Through working with young carers who have become bullying victims themselves, and with the Devon Carers project, we have produced some practical guidance to help you take swift action if this happens.

Research suggests there are as many as 700,000 children in the UK who are caring for a family member or friend with an illness, disability, mental health condition or addiction.

Instead of seeing friends, enjoying hobbies and completing their homework, these children, some as young as10, are cleaning, cooking, administering medicine, shopping and looking after a brother or sister – along with many other daily tasks.

We know young carers miss on average up to10 weeks of school a year as a direct result of their caring role, and with the added emotional turmoil of coping with bullying, these children are doubly disadvantaged, which can have a negative and enduring impact on their own mental health.

The aim of this new guide is to help professionals working with young carers to have an improved understanding of how caring for a family member may increase the susceptibility of a young person to being bullied.

Young carers can feel singled out and targeted because of the appearance or behaviour of a family member if a disability is obvious; if a sibling’s behaviour attracts attention; or if assumptions are made about a person without understanding their health condition. This can lead to isolation and bullying.

Modifying the young carer’s environment to prevent him or her from becoming isolated-for example, by providing transport to social activities – can help to reduce the likelihood of being bullied.

A whole-school approach:

Help young carers and their families feel safe and confident to access school support.

Make sure prospective pupils and families are aware the school recognises and responds to the needs of young carers.

Build a culture of acceptance and celebration of difference.

Anti-bullying policies

Make sure your anti-bullying policy includes specific reference to young carers and is up to date, freely accessible and regularly promoted.

Involve and include young carers in developing anti-bullying policies and practice.

Raise pupil awareness of disability and illness through assemblies, PSHE lessons and general literature.

Increase staff awareness and understanding of young carers and of the day-to-day issues they face.

Develop understanding of why young carers may be bullied, and strategies for dealing with bullying incidents.

Establish an identified person to whom young carers can go confidentially.

Explore the option of a peer mentor or buddy who is also a young carer.

Enable young carers to join in social activities and wider opportunities by thinking about how to overcome the barriers, such as lack or transport, cost and anxiety about leaving the person they care for.

Young carers have been identified as being particularly susceptible to cyberbullying. A2015 survey of vulnerable groups conducted by Youthworks Consulting found 58% of young carers had been cyberbullied, compared with 25% of their peers.

Sometimes their inability to join in activities can lead to an over-reliance on the internet. Ensure that young carers and their parents are aware of ways to stay safe online and reinforce these messages regularly. Implementing these recommendations from Carers Trust’s anti-bullying guidance can help prevent the damaging effects of bullying happening in the first place.

 Quotations:

“Because my dad uses a stick, other children threatened some nasty things.” Young carer

“People decided that, because your brothers are ‘weird’ then you must be a ‘weirdo’ too.”Young adult carer

“I know that they make comments about me because I am overweight and use a walking stick. ” Parent

“He gets asked, ‘Where is your dad? Oh you haven’t got one anymore’.” Parent

One parent said that if her son is late back after lunch he gets comments like: ‘Oh, you have had to go home to take your mum to the toilet, to clean her up’.

“If you quit, you have let them change you and that’s what they want to do.”Young carer

“At one point I received hate emails every day, then for years I would be bullied verbally by a few different people just around school and in my form.” Young adult carer

“I wouldn’t tell people about being bullied because I felt that no one cared.” Young adult carer

“A child put his hands around my son’s neck and he (her son) swore and was punished for swearing.” Parent

“I don’t think they [teachers] have a clue what it is like – they should be moreunderstanding.” Parent

“I didn’t really tell anyone.” Young adult carer

“I wouldn’t tell my mum and dad, they have too much going on at the moment.” Young carer

“I don’t want them to worry about me as they already have so much to think about.” Young adult carer

“What does worry me is what he is not telling me about the bullying. He worries that it will worry me.” Parent

“When I mentioned it to my PE teacher she refused to put me and a friend in a different group despite telling her that seven or eight of those in the current group bullied us.” Young adult carer

“There should definitely be more training for teachers, so many times I had teachers who just didn’t understand at all and got angry at me on days when I couldn’t cope. Some even embarrassed me in front of the whole class.” Young adult carer

“Having people who went through school as young carers go and speak to them and tell them what it was like and what would have helped.” Young adult carer

“Teachers don’t know enough. Got in trouble for not doing homework due to caring.” Young adult carer

Barriers to joining in

Lack of transport to and from activities.

The cost of activities.

Not having appropriate clothing or sports equipment.

Anxiety about leaving the person they care for.

The report is online here

 

 

 

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