Young carers' challenges inspire a major Department of Health programme
The School Nurse Programme will help school nurses and professionals to provide support to the children and young adults across the country who are caring for a family member.
We know that there are at least 166,000 young carers in the UK having to take on a range of adult responsibilities that deeply affect their school life.
We worked with the Department of Health and the Carer’s Trust to develop the School Nurse Programme, which includes top tips for school nurses developed by the young people we work with. These young people were also involved in training school nurses to look out for and support young carers.
We're proud to share the stories of Amanda, a nurse in Worcestershire who is sharing her thoughts on the new programme.
I'm a specialist community public health nurse in Worcestershire. I have recently completed a school nurse degree at the University of Wolverhampton and now work with a cluster of schools on the Worcester city team.
In the past year, I was invited by the Department of Health to train as a Young Carer’s School Nurse Champion. This was truly an eye-opening experience because prior to this opportunity my involvement with young carers on a formal basis was minimal.
This opportunity was part of the School Nurse Programme developed by the Department of Health with The Children’s Society. The programme is an online tool which health professionals can access to make sure that we can meet the need of the young carers we work with.
More often than not, I meet young carers when they identify themselves during my high school drop-in hours throughout Worcester City. Although this time is made available to the children who need it, the numbers of students that actually attend these sessions is low.
Great responsibilities harm health, education and outcomes
Since working with young carers I have seen how their caring responsibilities can sometimes have a negative impact on their health, education and social outcomes.
Learning about these challenges has inspired me to develop the School Nurse Programme on a local basis, in order to provide the support that these children obviously need and deserve in Worcestershire. As a Young Carers School Nurse Champion, I help to promote the voices of young carers to decision-makers so that the support these people create ultimately works for young carers.
I have been working with other health professionals in the area to raise awareness of the needs of young carers. This is really important so that professionals like GPs, community nurses and health visitors can identify young carers as early as possible and start providing support to them and their families.
I have been working with these professionals to make sure we all have a common understanding of what a young carer is so that the young carers are not hidden from the people who can help them.
Raising health professionals' awareness of young carers
I considered ways in which I could raise the profile of the young carers that fell below the radar quickly and succinctly and it seemed the key person central to the plan was the GP.
After highlighting a GP to assist in the pilot, we looked at the patients who had long term health concerns and also had a child or young person living with them. This gave an overview of potential young carers within the area the GP service covered. We then highlighted these young people and made sure support was offered from their GP, School Health Nurses and the Young Carers support group, when appropriate.
Having successfully piloted this in one practice I am in the process of rolling it out county-wide.
More about young carers
Read about the new School Nurse Programme on gov.uk