To ensure the effective management of a Carer Passport and the school’s provision for young carers, the school's senior leadership team must be clear about the rationale of supporting these students, the benefits of a Carer Passport and give the scheme its backing.
The Carer Passport and wider provision for young carers must be embedded within policies, school action plans and monitoring procedures, and indicators for its success should be developed.
- A ‘School Operational Lead’
- Consulting young carers
- Organisational and area wide approach
A Carer Passport scheme will be most effective where schools have designated a ‘School Operational Lead’ to coordinate the scheme and the wider provision of support for young carers. In schools where provision for young carers is operating successfully, the School Operational Lead acts as a main contact for young carers and families and is the contact point for external agencies and feeder or linked schools. Their role should also include championing and promoting the Passport scheme and the support for young carers, and to coordinate staff training on the use of the Passport and on young carer issues in general.
Schools should be informed by the expertise and insights of students known to be young carers within a school. A young carer steering group could be established to guide the development and implementation of the scheme. Consultation could take place with young carers from a local carer service which often have an established young person’s participation group. Students themselves may wish to design the Passport and other materials for the scheme.
It is vital that all staff across a school, including supply staff and other professionals working within the school, are aware of the Carer Passport and how it works. This can be communicated through staff training and through the development of guidelines as has been developed by Calderdale Young Carers Service.
Having a consistent approach within an area to Carer Passports and one that is backed by the local authority has several advantages. Firstly, young carers and their families will be familiar with the Passport scheme when students move between schools. Secondly, where a Passport is transferable between schools, this will support a seamless transition and prevent the support for young carers being dropped. A consistent approach can be achieved where schools work collaboratively in developing a scheme or where it is coordinated and championed by a young carer service.
Clear guidance for how the scheme runs should be developed perhaps through an ‘FAQ’, and the scheme must be communicated clearly to all staff, students and parents. Individual students may prefer to have a choice as to the form of the Passport depending on how comfortable they are with being identified as carers by peers.
Challenges to overcome
- Schools not acknowledging young carers
There is a perception in some schools that that they do not have students who are young carers. However, statistically, this is unlikely. It is more likely for there to be at least one young carer in each average-sized class room. Once a school sets up support and proactively seeks to identify young carers, it is common for a school to begin to identify significant numbers of students with caring responsibilities.
Conversely, some schools are sometimes nervous about starting to identify and support young carers and are concerned that they might unearth large numbers who would be difficult to support. Not identifying young carers early however, and not establishing preventative support is likely to be far more draining on schools and their pastoral resources. Without support, negative impacts of caring on students are more likely and students’ mental or physical health or behaviour can be affected.
- Time and competing priorities
It is acknowledged that schools have multiple and competing priorities on their time. However, young carers should not be held back in their education because of their family circumstances, and the benefits of supporting them will help support other school priorities. Where young carers are identified and supported early, their attendance is likely to improve and they are more likely to attain better grades. Moreover, young carers are one of the specific groups that Ofsted pays particular attention to. Working with a local young carer service, other local organisations and professionals will increase the capacity of schools to provide a Carer Passport scheme as many schools have already found.
- Uptake of the Carer Passport
As young carers and families are often fearful of self-identifying, the uptake by young carers of a Carer Passport scheme could potentially be a challenge. This may be particularly so where students are caring for people with conditions that may be stigmatised such as mental-ill health and substance misuse.
However this fear can be mitigated by schools developing sensitive and easy mechanisms for young carers and families to come forward and by ensuring that young carers can talk privately with staff.
The actual form of the Carer Passport and procedures must be well thought through to enable young carers to use them discreetly. As support becomes embedded, and awareness of the support is well communicated, students and parents will increasingly feel understood, and see the school as a safe place to open up about their own situation.
Some schools highlight that funding for a Carer Passport, would be challenging. However, many of the interventions that schools can initiate through a Carer Passport are cost free and can be built into existing pastoral systems. There are already numerous resources available to pick up for free through the Young Carers in Schools Programme and local young carer services. Furthermore, Carers Trust estimates that a significant proportion
60%) of young carers receive Pupil Premium, because of the number of their families likely to meet the free school meals criteria. This therefore could be used to fund a scheme.
Promoting Carer Passport schemes in schools
Good promotion, and accessibility, will result in prospective and current students (and their families) knowing what they can expect from the school and feeling recognised and supported.
All staff including supply staff and other professionals working within the school need to be aware of the Carer Passport and how it works. Students and their families also need to be aware of the Passport and its benefits, and how to attain one. Both students and staff are transient, and therefore regular promotion of the Passport is important to ensure that it is seen as a current and relevant initiative.
As some schools have found, it can be beneficial for the lead role to be responsible for the coordination of the promotion of the Passport and the wider support for young carers within the school. Staff training and a setting up a ‘young carer’ noticeboard in the staffroom are useful ways of keeping the information on the radar.
The Passport should be promoted within school literature, on the school website, in a school handbook and on a prominent noticeboard visible to students and parents. It is important that the Passport is highlighted to parents and students during the admission’s process and that opportunities are provided at an early stage for students or parents to request one.
The annual ‘Young Carers Awareness Day’ provides an ideal opportunity to raise the awareness and understanding of young carers and the Passport, and schools can invite a local young carer service to deliver a lesson or assembly. Resources developed for the annual awareness day and those already developed by the Young Carers in Schools Programme are ideal for schools to adapt and use.
In promoting how they support young carers, schools should be mindful of the messages they give out. Young carers should be depicted neither as victims nor heroes. Young carers should be portrayed simply as being like any other pupil, except that they happen to have caring responsibilities in addition to the pressures that they a juggling as a young person.