What is the initiative?
Young Carers Standards Award for schools and colleges
Who runs it?
Swindon Young Carers, a Network Partner of Carers Trust, with Zurich Community Trust (insurance based financial services)
Who does it benefit?
Young carers, primary and secondary schools and colleges in the borough of Swindon, and industry partner, Zurich
What does it do?
The awards scheme assesses schools and colleges against set standards for support provided to pupils/students who are young carers. The standards, developed in consultation with young carers, aim to ensure that young carers are identified, their needs are individually addressed, relevant provision is put in place and the impact evaluated. Schools and colleges that achieve these standards are given an award (Standard 1 to Standard 4) to recognise their commitment to supporting young carers.
When did it start?
The awards scheme began in the 2010/2011 academic year.
Why was it started?
A consultation with young carers was undertaken by Swindon Young Carers as part of the development of the council’s Young Carers’ Strategy. Young carers reported that they were having difficulties balancing school and their caring responsibilities. Often school staff did not appreciate the challenges young carers faced.
Also, whilst doing work as part of the Healthy Schools Programme, Swindon Young Carers found that while many schools in the area had a young carers’ policy, many could not say where it was or what it promised. Swindon Young Carers therefore wanted a new set of standards that schools and colleges would actively aspire to and could be proud of achieving.
Much of the initial work happened as part of the service Swindon Young Carers was already providing in schools. However, the service was keen to make the actual award official and hold a presentation ceremony, so funding was sought from Zurich to cover these additional costs. In addition, issues in relation to transition into further education and employment were highlighted and funding was sought to extend the work into further education colleges.
What are the aims and objectives?
- To improve the experience, attendance and attainment of young carers in schools and colleges
- To move from situations where a child’s caring role is not recorded at school/college, where they have no support plan and no one to turn to at school/college, to one where schools/colleges understand the role of young carers and the pressures they face, and offer appropriate support as standard
- That all schools/colleges in the area feel equipped to support young carers with their general needs, and know where to turn for extra support a young carer might need (e.g.: bereavement support)
- That school/college staff have the awareness and knowledge to identify hidden young carers and refer them to the young carers’ service, particularly in primary school when early intervention may be sufficient
- To create something tangible and desirable that will encourage schools/colleges to do more to support young carers
- For every school/college in Swindon to achieve the minimum standard award, and then to work towards the higher levels
- To have schools/colleges more involved in supporting young carers when procedures like a Common Assessment Framework (CAF) are needed
How is it funded?
Zurich Community Trust provided funding of £6,000 to cover the cost of the actual awards and the presentation ceremony. Donations in kind have also been sought from other companies to cover particular aspects of the awards ceremony such as the venue and the catering.
To ensure sustainability, the service aims for schools/colleges to do most of the work involved in achieving and maintaining the award, which helps to maximise the service’s budget and encourages ownership of the scheme by the school/college.
Swindon Young Carers receives core funding from Swindon Borough Council, with additional funds raised by Friends of Young Carers (Swindon), a charity devoted to raising money for young carers’ activities.
What has it achieved?
“Thank you for coming into my school. I felt alone but your assembly made me realise that I don’t have to do things by myself.” (Young carer)
“Working with Swindon Young Carers has made a real difference to the way we do things at our school. Some of our students undertake great responsibility outside the school gate, and we are committed to ensuring that the school is flexible, understanding and supportive. The work undertaken by these young people is considerable, and they deserve not only recognition but every bit of help that we can offer. Best of all, our young carers have been involved in this every step of the way.” (Secondary school)
The Young Carers Standards Award has been piloted with a number of schools and colleges across Swindon and is making a positive difference. Young carers have been given the power to directly influence whether their school/college receives or keeps the award, and the close relationships between schools/colleges and Swindon Young Carers mean that problems faced by young carers can be addressed early on by someone with appropriate expertise.
Schools and colleges have been given a recognised way of demonstrating the support they provide to young carers and have reported better outcomes for their pupils/students who have had young carer intervention support. One school was so impressed with what they learnt about young carers that they made Swindon Young Carers their official charity for the year. Another school volunteered to organise the launch event for the local authority’s Young Carers’ Strategy.
Currently there are four primary schools, six secondary schools and two colleges signed up to the standards. The schools/colleges are very keen to meet as a support group for each other to continue their achievements and also want to support others interested in taking up the scheme.
In the past, when a Common Assessment Framework (CAF) was arranged for a young carer, Swindon Young Carers would lead and do most of the work, while the school and other key agencies would take a secondary role. Now it is rare for the young carers’ service to be the main player or referrer, because schools and colleges are much more aware of young carers’ needs.
The industry partner and sponsor of the award has also benefited. Zurich use their involvement with the Swindon Young Carers as a means of meeting their objectives around working in the community. In addition to the grant to cover the costs of the Young Carers Standards Award, Zurich is also involved with Swindon Young Carers in other ways. For example, in 2011 a group of 12 to 15 year old carers were taken by Zurich employees to Go Ape, and younger carers (aged 6 to 9 years) were treated to a Christmas party. Zurich staff who volunteer through the scheme enjoy working with the young carers’ service and feel they are contributing to something positive.
“I’ve benefited a lot from spending time working with the young carers. It’s something different from my day job and I can use my skills towards something really important. I’d definitely recommend it to other people.” (Zurich employee)
How have carers have been involved in planning and delivering this work?
The standards on which the awards are based were developed in consultation with young carers (through the Young Carers’ Forum run by Swindon Young Carers), and young carers are regularly asked to report back on the school/college they attend, so they have the power to directly influence whether their school/college receives or keeps the award. Young carers have also been involved in practical matters such as designing a young carers’ ID card and writing a piece for the website.
Setting up a project like this?