Things started when one of our Mental Health Champions, Clare Matthews, attended a Young Carers awareness session through the Point 1 Link project. This made her think about the children she knew in school who had a caring role. Through the NOA Inclusion meetings, I was able to find out more about Young Carers and we realised that we needed to do more to support this group of children in school. This became part of the work I did as an EPIC (Enhanced Primary Inclusion Champion). We identified group leads from among our NOA trained ELSAs (Emotional Literacy Support Assistants) – Clare, Rachel Blazer and Magda Lach (who has since left the school). We are lucky that our PSA (Parent support Advisor), Liz Howard has been instrumental in setting up and running a successful Young Carers group at the nearby Magdalen Gates Primary School. Liz and Cara (then Head Teacher) generously shared their expertise with us.
We sent out letters to every family in the school, explaining what Young Carers are and asking parents/carers to identify whether they would like their children to be part of the network. These children were invited to attend meetings, initially at lunchtimes, now after school. The most popular meetings involved art and craft activities; the name ‘Creative Carers’ was suggested by someone in the group.
Rachel designed a logo and the group gained an identity! We even got our own t-shirts printed thanks to a generous grant from Caring Together. We want our children to be proud of their caring roles, because we understand the huge challenges that they could face now and in the future.
We have about 30 children in the group now from years 1-6. They are Young Carers for a wide range of reasons. These reasons are not discussed explicitly in meetings; the children know that we know why they are carers, they know that they can talk to the adults in the group about anything, but really they just like to have the time to get together and do something that is quite ‘special’ just for them. We eat biscuits, or sometimes cake. We have a lot of fun! Children look forward to meetings and their parents are hugely appreciative.
To raise awareness about Young Carers, we created a leaflet, we’ve put information on our website (https://milecrossprimary.com/young-carers), put a noticeboard and information stand in the school atrium and all staff have attended some training. On Young Carers Action Day (16th March 2021) we displayed ‘Caring Hands for Young Carers’ around the school and in the wider community, sent a presentation out to all parents/carers and the whole school watched (recorded) assemblies about Young Carers.
We worked with a focus group of some of our older children to draft a Young Carers Agreement which sets out our ongoing commitment as a school.