The world's a pretty crazy place right now, and we're all getting through it day by day. It's difficult to think far beyond the present moment, but the truth is that we must. The long-term impact of Covid-19 will be felt by no-one more than our children, and it's essential that we look ahead to the future now and prepare to address the challenges they'll face. In the aftermath of school closures, we know that young carers will need our support more than ever. Read on to find out how we intend to provide that support, and how you can help us.
What is a Young Carer?
A young carer is a child, just like any other. The only difference is that young carers are responsible for the care of at least one member of their family, though they may be as young as 5 years old themselves.
Young carers often sacrifice a lot to care for the people they love. They're superheroes without the capes, and MYTime exists to give back just some of the care and compassion that they themselves give so freely to others.
Why Do Young Carers Need Our Help?
At MYTime, we believe that no child's destiny should be defined by their beginning, yet young carers currently achieve 9 grades lower overall at GCSE than their peers. Between the ages of 16 and 18, young carers are twice as likely to be NEET (not in education, employment or training), and 49% of young adult carers between the ages of 18 and 25 are currently unemployed.
Too many young carers are falling behind in the education system and later, paying the price in the world of work. Why? All because these incredible young people are busy taking care of the people they love. And all because we, as a society, aren’t doing enough to support them. Just take a look at Sadie's story to see for yourself the reality of a young carer's daily routine.
When Sadie wakes, she takes her mum her tablets, wakes her little brother Tom, and helps him to get washed and dressed. She pours him a bowl of cereal, makes him a packed lunch, then takes her mum some breakfast in bed.
At 8.30 she drops Tom off at school. By the time she reaches her own school gates, she’s late and is told off by the member of staff on duty. Sadie goes to explain herself, then stops. Mrs Hemming wouldn't understand anyway.
In Geography, she texts her mum to check she’s ok. The teacher spots her and confiscates her phone, and Sadie spends the rest of the day worrying. She can't concentrate on her work without knowing that her mum is alright.
At lunch, Sadie steers clear of the playground. She doesn't want to risk being seen by Kyle. Last week he saw her in the supermarket with her mum, and he's been making nasty comments ever since.
Later, in English, Sadie tells her teacher that she hasn't had time to do her homework. She is given a detention after school the next day. Who will pick Tom up from school, she wonders?
That night, Sadie makes dinner, then puts Tom to bed. She reads him a bedtime story, then does the washing up. She helps her mum into the bath, and then into bed, and by the time she’s finished, she’s too tired to do her homework. She’ll get in trouble at school again tomorrow. Maybe, she thinks, it would be better not to go in at all.
Sadie is twelve. And in the UK alone, there are an estimated 800,000 young carers just like her.
How Will MYTime's School Support Programme Help?
What Sadie's story shows is that schools are often unaware of the young carers within their care and that they are, therefore, unable to make the allowances or provision necessary to best support them. School life for children like Sadie is often stressful and demoralising, and it's easy to see why these children might fall behind.
This year, MYTime will be launching a comprehensive School Support Programme designed to raise awareness of young carers within their school communities, and to help schools to radically improve their provision for young carers. Ultimately, the programme exists to ensure that young carers have everything they need at school to reach their full potential.
The programme was piloted this January in two secondary schools and proved highly successful. We are raising funds towards the launch of the programme to 10 schools this year. For each school we work with, we will:
- deliver student assemblies to raise awareness of young carers and encourage a culture of respect and understanding for their unique set of challenges. Through these, we hope to challenge stigmas, tackle the issue of bullying within schools, and encourage young carers to make themselves known to staff so that they can access the help that's available to them;
- provide training to school staff to ensure that they are equipped to recognise and effectively support young carers, as well as to establish a young carers' support network relevant to their school environment and culture;
- produce individualised school policies including clear guidance and key recommendations regarding young carers;
- help to monitor the attendance and grades of young carers and recommend appropriate and sensitive measures that school staff could take to boost these where necessary;
- facilitate better communication between schools and councils, which is essential in order to reduce the number of young carers who are currently falling through the gaps between the various systems;
- provide opportunities for work experience and effective careers advice through schools, to reduce the percentage of young carers who go on to be unemployed as young adults;
- facilitate activity days and weekend retreats for groups of young carers identified by their schools as struggling and in need of a break;
- provide ongoing support as schools develop their provision for young carers, and help them to embed new skills and systems into the framework of everyday school life.
What Do We Expect To Achieve?
Through this programme we hope that:
- 90% of the young carers in the schools we work in will report increased awareness of the size of the young carer community to which they belong and will, therefore, feel less isolated;
- 90% of school staff in the schools we work in will report feeling better equipped to identify and support young carers;
- 80% of young carers in the schools we work in will report feeling better supported by their teachers;
- 80% of young carers in the schools we work in will report feeling less ostracized by their peers;
- 70% of young carers in the schools we work in will demonstrate an improved attendance record;
- 70% of young carers in the schools we work in will demonstrate improved grades;
- Each school will see a marked increase in the number of registered young carers within their care, and so will be more aware of those individuals who need the extra support and understanding.
Schools are expected to reopen this September, and we know it will prove difficult for some children to readjust to their school routines after so many months spent at home. For young carers, whose families will have come to depend on them more than ever during this time, the transition back into life at school is likely to feel impossible. We know that young carers who have been caring for shielded relatives will have had to take on extra responsibilities at home during this time. Many will not have been able to keep up with their school work, and will have fallen behind significantly by the time they return to class. Most will need to balance school work with increased caring responsibilities, and we know that this is causing anxiety for some already.
Our School Support Programme has never been more needed or more important than now. Whether we are able to work face-to-face with students and staff in schools, or whether we must offer a virtual service online to begin with, we are committed to launching the programme as soon as schools reopen so that we can be there for young carers when they need us most.
How Can You Help?
- Our programme depends on your donations. Its goal is to enable all young carers to thrive personally, professionally and academically, and by donating, you'll be making that goal a reality. Every little counts, so do something amazing today and pledge what you can.
- By getting behind the MYTime mission, you'll be raising awareness of our cause and so helping to bring attention to young carers and the challenges they face . The more people know and talk about these challenges, the greater the pressure upon schools and influential bodies such as the government’s Ofsted department to address them. Be sure to share our Crowdfunder page via social media, and you'll be helping us spread the word.
Who are MYTime?
MYTime is the only charity in Dorset working specifically to provide young carers of ages 5-25 with the support, friendship and opportunities that every child deserves. We organise activity days and weekend retreats to ensure that young carers have regular chances to rest and recuperate from their caring responsibilities. We also work with young adult carers of ages 18-25 to support them into work or further education.
Ours is a powerhouse team of seven incredible women, all united by a belief in young people, and a passion for supporting them to achieve happiness, success and fulfilment in everything they do. No matter what happens, MYTime will continue to fight tirelessly to do what we believe is right for young carers everywhere, but our fight could be a whole lot easier with your help!
Meet the team...
Krista Cartlidge - Executive Director: Having spent the last thirteen years working as a secondary school geography teacher in a variety of different schools across the country, I have developed the unshakeable belief that no child's destiny should be defined by their beginning. Young carers are an incredible group of children who demonstrate such selflessness and love for their family on a daily basis, but who often end up putting their own needs last. I feel extremely privileged to serve this wonderful and compassionate group of children, and to work alongside the MYTime team to ensure that young carers receive the support, opportunities and, most importantly, the childhoods that all children deserve.
Wendy King - Fundraising and Partnerships Manager: As a mother, there's nothing I love more than to see young people fulfilling their dreams. MYTime empowers young carers to do just that. I believe so passionately in our cause that, last year, I climbed to the dizzying heights of Mount Everest Base Camp in order to raise funds for the charity.
Gemma Buchanan - Operations and Groups Manager: It was my conviction that every child deserves a positive start in life which led me to become a foster carer. Now, I work alongside MYTime to ensure that young carers have equal opportunities to succeed. It's fantastic to work within a team which is so dedicated to that one, incredibly important, shared goal.
Penelope Day - Development Manager: As a previous secondary school English teacher, I’ve always had a powerful desire to support young people through their journeys to adulthood, as well as a love for language and writing. My role within MYTime combines my two greatest passions: I write bids to grant-providers on behalf of the charity and seek to enlist as much support as possible for an incredibly deserving group of young people. I love what I do, I believe in what I do and I’m inspired every day by the fantastic team and astounding young carers with whom I’m lucky enough to work.
Ellie Talebian - Communications manager: Because I grew up providing practical and emotional support to others at home, I understand the unique set of challenges faced by young carers . As a child, I found my norms in uncertainty, chaos and change and this forced me to build enormous resilience. To this day, however, I continue to overcome the lasting challenges of not having received that ‘fair chance’ in education. My own experience of childhood and my desire to create positive experiences for children led me to become a group leader and volunteer at The Woodcraft Folk for over 15 years, to train to teach and also to set up my own company to support charitable initiatives. To date, I have worked with and supported Last Night a DJ Saved my Life Charity, Safety Net, Forests without Frontiers, Vision of Hope and She Said So, to name but a few. I am dedicated to helping MYTime ensure that no young carer feels alone or undervalued in their support role.
Emma Fry - Employability Programme Manager: Like Krista and Penelope, my background is in education. It was when I worked as Head of Year 9 in a local secondary school that I first realised how challenging life could be for young carers, and I've been determined to do my bit to support them ever since. Having launched and run a young carers' group at that school, and later trained and qualified as a Careers Leader and Adviser, I was delighted when the opportunity arose for me to combine my two great passions by taking on the role of Employability Programme Manager for MYTime. Within the role, I work with young carers to provide them with the essential skills they need to gain access to employment or further education, breaking down social barriers in the process.
Karen Cartlidge - Financial Director: After a long career in the corporate world working for American Express as Director of Client Management in London, Singapore and Sydney, I was excited to move away from a profit driven organisation to work for MYTime supporting the young carers in our community. As well as balancing the charity's books, I also offer voluntary support at the events the charity runs for the children. It's impossible not to be impressed by a young carer's altruism, and humbling to understand the daily challenges they face.
We would not be able to do our work without donations from you. We speak for young carers everywhere when we say that we are immensely grateful for any support we receive.
Want to get behind us but can't afford to help financially right now? Don't worry! You can still play a vital part simply by sharing our Crowdfunder campaign via social media.
Lots of love and thanks from,
The MYTime Team x