Schools failing BAME young carers sacrificing their futures for loved ones

Javed Khan

Schools are failing a generation of BAME children who are sacrificing their futures to care for sick or disabled family members, research by Barnardo’s, the UK’s leading children’s charity, has found. The report recommends that because BAME young carers are a particularly vulnerable and often overlooked group, schools, local authorities, health services and young carer services need to work to identify, engage and provide specialist support for BAME young carers in order to break down barriers and reduce the stigma and fear of agency involvement within these communities. Services need to be accessible and visible and work to overcome any language and cultural barriers that may lead to BAME families not seeking support.

Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Carers are less likely to receive support both financially and practically, often as a result of the difficulty in accessing culturally appropriate information and a lack of engagement with these communities. (Carers UK, October 2015)

As part of the research published today (6th December 2017), a YouGov poll* found that 40 per cent of teachers were not confident they would be able to identify a young carer in their class.

More than a third (34%) of teachers surveyed thought there were young carers at their school who were not sufficiently supported and almost a third (29%) said they didn’t think their school had any particular ways of supporting young carers.

This is despite some children and young people carrying out more than 30 hours a week of caring responsibilities** – almost the equivalent of a full-time job – and filling in the gaps left in adult social care.

Barnardo’s research with practitioners working to support young carers has shown that caring can take a huge toll on children’s mental health, as well as their achievement at school.

More than three-quarters (75%) of the practitioners Barnardo’s surveyed said that most or all of the young carers they had supported had suffered from anxiety, depression, isolation and feelings of anger. All the practitioners had worked with children who had self-harmed.

Barnardo’s Chief Executive Javed Khan said:

“It is simply not acceptable that children are having to sacrifice their futures to care for the ones they love.

“Austerity has meant local authorities have had to cut back on adult social care and the result is children are picking up the pieces. A quarter of the children supported by Barnardo’s young carers’ services are carrying out more than 30 hours a week of caring – that’s the equivalent of a full time job.

“It’s clear from our research that there is a lack of awareness among teachers that needs urgently addressing. Schools need to take more responsibility to make sure young carers are properly supported.

“Looking after their family members is something that our young carers are incredibly proud of but it shouldn’t be at the expense of their childhoods or their futures.”

Under the Care Act and the Children and Families Act, teachers – and other professionals working with children – have a statutory duty to identify young carers and refer them to the local authority to be assessed for support.

Young carers carry out tasks including cooking, cleaning and shopping, as well as providing intimate personal care, administering drugs and taking care of household finances.

The poll of 800 teachers found that nine-in-10 teachers thought caring responsibilities could impact negatively on young carers’ school lives as it could mean they were late or absent from school or have trouble keeping up with work.

Despite recent changes to legislation which have led to more young carers being identified, there are still children with caring responsibilities slipping under the radar. And cuts to local authority budgets have meant that more and more children are taking on more and more caring responsibilities.

Carrie***, 20, has been caring for her mum and younger siblings since she was six but didn’t realise until she learnt about young carers at school in Year 8, although she was carrying out caring responsibilities daily, including making dinner, bathing her mum and putting her to bed and helping her siblings with their homework.

She was referred to Barnardo’s young carers’ service in Year 8 by a therapist after she stopped eating or speaking.

She said: “I do caring seven days a week and there isn’t a day I can take off.

“Other young people go home and their mums and dads do their washing and cooking so they can do their homework and play on their X Box until 11 or 12 o’clock at night.

“When I finish my caring I do my homework. My teachers didn’t understand how much of a role my caring actually was.”

Barnardo’s and young carers

Barnardo’s runs 20 services that work to support young carers and their families across the UK.

Barnardo’s supports young carers and their families by:

  • Helping the family to find the support they need, and are entitled to, from local services, so that a child’s caring responsibilities can be reduced.
  • Supporting young carers to use local services such as sports clubs, support groups, and health centres.
  • Providing advice and emotional support through counselling and drop-in sessions.
  • Liaising with schools/educational settings so that teachers can better support their students.
  • Providing opportunities for young carers to take a break from their caring responsibilities, spend time with other young carers and share experiences.
  • Providing opportunities for young carers to learn more about their parent’s illness or disability.


Last year 272,000 children, young people, parents and carers were supported by Barnardo’s through more than 1,000 services across the UK, such as young carers, care leavers, foster carers and adoptive parents, training and skills or parenting classes. Barnardo’s works to transform the lives of the UK’s most vulnerable children and every year we help thousands of families to build a better future.


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