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Young carers in Wiltshire will be able to access improved services from this April, following a consultation being carried out by local charity Carer Support Wiltshire.

The charity has, during the last year, been working closely with education providers in the county, including primary and secondary schools, on a new young carer friendly award. The award provides schools signed up with advice on how to identify young carers within their school communities and best support them.

Carer Support Wiltshire has been working with Wiltshire Council on the development of this award, which is now presented alongside the Wiltshire Healthy Schools programme. All schools and colleges can now access this award to more easily find additional support and gain accreditation for their work to support young carers.

Learnings from this work are now being built on and young people who have been identified through the award are being consulted to find out what support could have the biggest positive impact.

Leanne Hubbard is Interim CEO of Carer Support Wiltshire. She said:

“We’re delighted to have this opportunity to reshape services for young carers in the county. We’re keen to speak to young people and find out what would help them most.

“Through our young carer friendly award work, we know that schools are best placed to identify young carers and offer someone for them to speak to, outside of the family. It’s important that someone is aware of their situation and is there for them, including to assist with many of the issues that can come up for young carers.

“We’ll also be looking at setting up additional services that might be needed, that give young carers opportunities for peer support, mentoring and social opportunities, for example.”

Cllr Laura Mayes, Cabinet Member for Children’s Services said:

“Young carers often have a huge amount of responsibility on their shoulders, going to school alongside providing support to their parents, carers or siblings at home. We want them to know there is support available for them including someone to talk to. Schools signing up to the Young Carer Friendly Award sends a clear message to young people and I look forward to seeing lots of schools join this new scheme.”

Carer Support Wiltshire staff recently attended a young carers session at Studley Green Primary School in Trowbridge, who are one of the pilot schools taking part in the young carer friendly award and provide regular opportunities for their young carers to meet and take part in activities.

The pupils expressed the highs and lows of having a caring role, with positives including enjoying helping with chores, especially when helping mum out, and being part of close and loving families.

Among the negatives expressed were a lack of money to afford a car, or go out as a family, and feeling anxious at school when a parent is poorly, and they don’t want to leave them.

One young carer said one thing they didn’t like was the “lots and lots of favours”. One said they enjoyed spending time with the person in their family they helped to care for and “snuggling up watching telly”.

A young carer may be caring for, or helping to care for, a parent, sibling or other family member. They are often providing emotional support, physical support and doing more around the house than others of their own age, as well as potentially missing out on the ‘normal’ activities their peers may take for granted.

While having caring responsibilities can have a positive impact too, young carers often need extra support, including to make sure they are able to complete their education. A study carried out by national charity Carers Trust showed that young carers are twice as likely to be not in education, employment, or training (NEET) between 16 and 18 years of age.