PHOTO © Carers Trust

Starting school can be a daunting time for many pupils, but young carers are facing further emotional turmoil. More than two thirds are reporting bullying at school - many simply because they care for a loved one at home.

Carers Trust, the UKs largest charity for unpaid carers, is today releasing new guidance and a training video, so professionals can take swift action to protect young carers - preventing the devastating impact of bullying.

More than two thirds (68%) of young carers aged 6-18 said that they had been bullied at school (*1) and research commissioned by Carers Trust found that a quarter (26%) of young carers surveyed were bullied at school specifically because of their caring role (*2).

Working with young carers who have become bullying victims themselves, and Devon Carers, Carers Trust has produced practical guidance to help professionals prevent bullying from happening in the first place.

Michelle*, a young adult carer aged 21 from Devon told Carers Trust about her experience;

"My bullying started very early – in primary school, people would bully me and say my mum was a drug addict because she has diabetes and has to inject insulin every day. I learned to be protective of my mum and isolated myself – I didn’t have many friends. By the age of 16, the bullying got really bad and I had severe stress induced seizures.

"Without the support and guidance offered to me through my local young carers group in Devon, I would never have moved forward from one of the most difficult periods of my life. I think it is so important this support is extended to others with this guide, so something can be done earlier - and to maybe even prevent things from becoming so severe."

Robert*, aged 15, a young carer from Devon, says;

"I experienced a lot of verbal bullying and some physical bullying in secondary school. I was pushed until I reacted – either breaking down emotionally or reacting back. It made me feel isolated – I went home to feel safe, but had jobs to do - like cooking and cleaning, so I couldn’t relax. At school I could stop being a young carer– but was bullied.

"I was very stressed and sometimes too tired to do my homework. It’s important that teachers realise what life is like, especially with the added stress of bullying. I think this guide will help raise awareness with teachers so they can help."

The aim of this new guide and accompanying film is to help professionals working with young carers in youth services, sports centres, community clubs and schools - where young carers may be being bullied - to have improved understanding of how caring for a family member may increase the susceptibility of a young person to being bullied.

The report reveals that by modifying the environment where the young carers are, such as taking steps to prevent young carers from becoming isolated, for example by providing transport to social activities, can help to reduce the likelihood of young carers being bullied.

Gail Scott-Spicer, Chief Executive of Carers Trust, says;

"Having to deal with bullying on top of their already challenges lives can have a devastating impact on young carers. We know young carers are missing on average 10 weeks of school a year as a direct result of their caring role – with the added emotional turmoil of coping with bullying, these children are doubly disadvantaged.

"We listened to young carers who told us about the devastating impact bullying had on them, and produced this guidance so professionals can take swift action to nip this behavior in the bud, and put structures in place to stop young carers becoming socially isolated from their peers."

Adrienne Katz, Director of Youthworks Consulting Ltd, who features in the anti-bullying video for professionals, says;

"We know that for young carers it can be hard to join in with after school activities or social outings because they need to get home. As a result, they can be left out or subjected to bullying, both on and off-line, simply because they are not able to always have the same social life as their mates. Bullying in itself can drive people to go online - to seek other friends or for revenge - so the bullying can link up with their online life to pose real risks to young carers."

Carers Trust is now calling on professionals to identify, support and protect young carers from social isolation in the first place, which can lead to the damaging effects of bullying, by implementing simple recommendations in the anti-bullying guidance.

Further information:

Please contact Carers Trust Case Study and Communications Managers; Lynsey Mellows on 07824 566493 (Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning) or Corinne Scotland on 07792 594417 (Monday, Thursday and Friday morning).

Or, Sarah Lindley, Young Carers, Westbank, Farm House Rise, Exminster, EX6 8AT at [email protected]