Hidden army of young carers in Irish schools

Young carers are children and young people under the age of 18 whose lives are in some way affected because they provide care, assistance or support to another family member. Young adult carers are recognised as a separate group, and are aged between 19 and 25. 

The person they care for is often a parent but can be a sibling, grandparent or other relative or friend who needs care, support or supervision because of disability, chronic illness, mental health difficulties or problems with drugs or alcohol misuse.

The caring role has the potential for significant negative effects on young carers, including educational disadvantage (increased likelihood of absence from school, responsibilities encroaching on time available for homework/study, poor academic results, inability to participate in extra-curricular activities, increased risk of early school-leaving) and social disadvantage; resulting in reduced life choices and limited opportunities. Young carers are a diverse group and all these children and young people have different needs and levels of disadvantage and vulnerability.

In every classroom

There are an estimated 57,000 young carers aged 10-17 living in Ireland, that’s the equivalent of 2 young carers in every classroom in the country. Despite their prevalence and the issues they face, young carers often slip under the radar of teachers and other professionals. 

That’s why Family Carers Ireland has developed a school programme which raises awareness about young carers. The programme also helps young carers to self-identify so that they can benefit from the range of supports available through the organisation. 

Recently Family Carers Ireland launched their Young Carers Card which gives young people with caring responsibilities access to a variety of deals and discounts and can be used as disclosure tool for schools, colleges and health services. 

There are over 20 deals and discounts available to young carers including offers from Carlingford Adventure Centre, Zipit Forest Adventure, Grafton Barbers, Omniplex Cinemas, Gym Plus, The Body Shop and many more. The Young Carer Card can be applied for online via familycarers.ie at no cost to the young carer. 

Young carers, schools and other professionals can also get in contact with Family Carers Ireland directly by phoning 0579370208 or emailing youngcarers@familycarers.ie.