Young carers affected by HIV tell us that schools and colleges can play a vital role in identification and support

Young male carer with younger sister walking down alleyway 

Supporting young carers in schools

'We want specialist HIV and young carers training sessions for all teachers and education professionals' - Young carer affected by HIV

Inappropriate levels of caring can heavily impact on children’s own physical health and emotional well-being, as well as their educational achievements and life chances.

Additional barriers in education exist for young carers who are affected by stigmatised illnesses, such as HIV. These barriers are perpetuated by a lack of awareness and understanding of the issues surrounding HIV. Education professionals also have a crucial role in educating children and young people about the illness. If schools, colleges and universities were able to provide clear and accurate information about HIV this would work towards reducing the stigma and prejudice that surrounds it. 

The Young Carers in Schools Programme offers schools a systematic approach to supporting young carers within schools. It provides tools and resources to support whole school awareness of stigmatised illnesses and hidden young carers. Schools are also able to gain recognition for their work and an award to showcase their commitment to young carers within schools. 

Issues 

There are many issues that young carers affected by HIV can face. These include:

  • Confidentiality
  • Isolation
  • Problems concentrating at school
  • Limited time to do homework
  • Being late/poor attendance at school due to caring responsibilities
  • Restricted time for play, sport or leisure activities with their peers
  • Experiencing stigma and bullying 
  • However there are also positives for young carers who are well supported. For example, their caring role can equip them with valuable life skills and give them special relationships within the family.

Practical Steps

What educational professionals can do to help:

  • Implement a school policy around young carers and HIV, which includes information sharing and confidentiality
  • Have information about young carers and about potential sources of support visible and accessible for staff and young carers
  • Train staff to identify young carers and raise awareness amongst all the staff
  • Train all staff in basic understanding and awareness of HIV
  • Establish and maintain a working group within the schools that includes HIV professionals, young carers workers and other service professionals in a position to support young carers
  • Implement lessons in schools about HIV using trained staff and professionals who have accurate, up to the date information which is age appropriate. Learning Positive also provides an introduction and educational curriculum to support teachers in delivering HIV awareness.

Higher Education

Colleges and Universities have a role in supporting young people into the transition of adulthood and should provide a support system for young carers affected by HIV. They can also request a transition assessment from the Local Authority to ensure the correct support is in place for a young adult carer in reaching their potential. 

They also have a role in educating those who plan on working within Education, Healthcare or Social care, so that they are aware of the issues that the families and young people that they may be working with face. Our Include service can offer training to trainee teachers, social workers and healthcare professionals amongst others to ensure that they are able to identify and support young carers; including those affected by HIV. For more information contact us.

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Initial Teacher Education Providers (ITE) can also access the ITE Toolkit from the Young Carers in Schools Programme that provides essential tools, templates and guidance for the providers to include the needs of young carers in their training, making it as easy as possible to ensure trainee teachers are equipped to support young carers within schools.

Being aware of these barriers and having a school policy around young carers - including those affected by HIV - helps to identify support and refer where necessary. These are vital first steps and will reduce the potential impacts on educational attainment and qualifications. Ensuring that the whole school is on board will enable you to work towards creating a supportive and caring environment where young carers affected by HIV can thrive and flourish.

Remember young carers say they wish to be listened to, understood and believed. They also wish to be valued, consulted with and respected.

Further resources

There are resources available for teachers to deepen understanding of HIV amongst young people across the curriculum:

  • Learning Positive which also includes information about issues such as stigma and discrimination
  • HIV in Schools - Good practice guide to supporting children infected or affected by HIV - Magda Conway, NCB and CHIVA
  • Teaching Resources  - Red Cross activity kit containing a range of materials for use in educational settings to raise students' awareness of stigma and discrimination and to think about ways to provide positive help to people living with HIV
  • HIV Aware - Learn more about HIV and put your knowledge into action
  • NAT HIV facts school packs - HIV in Schools: A schools pack designed for teaching about HIV at key stages 3 and 4.