Written evidence submitted by Carers Trust


Carers Trust is a UK-wide charity that works to transform the lives of unpaid carers. It partners with its network of local carer organisations to provide funding and support, deliver innovative and evidence-based programmes and raise awareness and influence policy. Carers Trust’s vision is that unpaid carers are heard and valued, with access to support, advice and resources to enable them to live fulfilled lives.


Carers Trust is submitting evidence because a number of studies have highlighted the significant impact that caring responsibilities can have on a pupil’s attendance. Until now, there has not been consistent, national data relating to young carers in education. As of January 2023, all schools are now required to record which pupils are young carers in their Spring School Census return, a change that Carers Trust and others campaigned for. This addition to the school census will mean that all schools will now be in a position to both know who their young carers are, but also to use this data to monitor their attendance.

Carers Trust is calling for all schools to ensure that they are using this data to identify when a young carers’ attendance is being negatively affected so that early support can be put in place to address this.


The factors causing persistent and severe absence among different groups of pupils, particularly disadvantaged pupils.


Many young carers have significant caring responsibilities that result in difficulties in attending, achieving and participating in education, such as being late or missing days or weeks of school. Findings from the Department of Education (2017) state that there are indications that younger carers are more likely to have been absent from school or college, with 74% of respondents who are carers reporting being absent at least a few times in the last year compared with 49% of young people in the comparison group.


The Children’s Society similarly states that young carers have many demands on their time and may experience increased anxiety about school, resulting in some missing education: “27% of young carers aged 11-15 miss school or experience educational difficulties”.


The Children’s Commissioner for England reports that children with caring responsibilities often felt that their home duties were prioritised over their education, whether this be providing care for a family member or financial support. They highlight that this is a particular challenge for young people having difficulties in school whilst caring for someone with substance misuse. The Children’s Society quotes research by Dearden & Becker 2004, who state that 40% of young carers aged 11-15 caring for a relative with drug or alcohol problems miss school or experience educational difficulties.


The Department of Education (2017) state that young carers are at particular risk of being bullied in school because of their caring role (16% report being bullied compared to 3% in the comparison group) which may consequently lead to school absence. School absence often relates to confidence and self-esteem in educational experiences.


Furthermore, as part of Children’s Commissioner research, young carers described that often, they didn’t have an adult within the school to champion their needs. This is supported by Carers Trust research in 2022, where 40% of survey respondents said they ‘never’ or ‘not often’ have someone at school to talk to about being a young carer or young adult carer. Not feeling supported is likely to impact young carers to withdraw or attend education less. 


For college students, Carers Trust Scotland research found that a key issue for college absence was that timetables are often released very close to the beginning of term, leaving little time for carers to make alternative arrangements or to have their timetables changed.


How schools and families can be better supported to improve attendance, and how this affects pupils and families who are clinically vulnerable to covid-19.


Carers Trust findings in the 2022 report “It’s harder than anyone understandsfound that within the survey, only 34% of young carers and 36% of young adult carers felt their school, college or university ‘always’ or ‘usually’ understands about them being a young carer. Furthermore, 52% said that they do ‘not often’ or ‘never’ get help from school, college or university to balance their school, college or university work, and as stated previously, 40% said they ‘never’ or ‘not often’ have someone at school to talk to about being a young carer or young adult carer.


A lack of awareness and understanding within the education system can reduce young carers’ capacity to engage in their learning and with school or college fully.


Many referrals for support are made when young carers are in secondary school, meaning that young carers are likely to be missed at younger ages.


Whilst Carers Trust welcomes the inclusion of young carers on the Spring Census, schools must actively seek to find their young carers. Several considerations should be made:



A whole-school approach to supporting young carers




An independent review of the Young Carers in Schools programme found that:


The impact of breakfast clubs and free school meals on improving attendance for disadvantaged pupils.


Existing research, such as Vizard, Obolenskaya and Burchardt (2019), shows that child poverty rates are higher among young carers than among other children in 2013/14 and 2015/16. Whilst this report is from 2019, it provides valuable evidence to support Carers Trust findings in 2020 on escalating food poverty. In a survey, 11% of young carers and 20% of young adult carers said they found it hard to access food since Covid-19 lockdowns.


It is estimated that around 60% of young carers are eligible for Free School Meals. The Department for Education states that children eligible for free school meals are more than three times more likely to be persistently absent.


The role of the Holiday activities and Food programme and other after-school and holiday clubs, such as sports, in improving attendance and engagement with school.


As stated previously, The Children’s Commissioner says that children with caring responsibilities often felt their home responsibilities were prioritised over their education, whether providing care for a family member or financial support. This means that young carers can experience difficulties joining extra-curricular activities or opportunities for school trips.


Warhurst, Bayless and Maynard (2022) describe that young carers can experience a lack of opportunities to meet friends after school or at the weekends and are likely to experience feelings of isolation and struggle with friendships. School and holiday clubs are essential sources of peer support, shared experience opportunities, and space away from their caring role for young carers, who may otherwise have restricted opportunities for socialising, and accessing the benefits friendships at school/college can bring. Research by Phelps (2021) also stated that accessing these clubs helped increase young carers’ patience and develop the ability to ignore others if someone was bullying them. These factors are likely to improve young carers’ experiences within education settings, which may link to improved attendance.


Two considerations should be made concerning the provision of after-school and holiday clubs:


There is also a relationship between young carers not having enough time or the capacity for physical activity outside of their education. Schools should prioritise giving young carers opportunities for physical activity during the school day.

Sources used:


February 2023