Young carers & bullying
Our definition of bullying behaviour at The Diana Award_
Repeated, negative behaviour that is intended to make others feel upset, uncomfortable, or unsafe.
Definition of young carers_
A young carer is someone aged under 18, who looks after someone else. This is usually a parent or sibling, who is disabled, chronically ill, mentally unwell or experiencing addiction to drugs or alcohol. Extra responsibilities can include things like cooking and cleaning at home or practical and emotional care for someone.
Like other forms of bullying behaviour, bullying behaviour against young carers can take many different forms. We know that experiences of bullying behaviour are prevalent amongst young carers. Young carers experience more bullying behaviour at school than their peers and face difficulties maintaining friendships (Aldrige et al. 2017).
This is often because young carers are perceived as different to other young people in schools due to their caring role. Indirect bullying can result from this perceived difference and this form of bullying behaviour can take the form of excluding these young people from social groups and situations. This can be a very isolating experience for young carers to face.
Top tips if you're experiencing this type of bullying behaviour
If you are a young carer, you have the right to feel safe in your school or college. Bullying behaviour related to your role as a young carer is unacceptable. Below, the team at The Diana Award have outlined some of the measures which you can take if you are experiencing this type of bullying behaviour:
If possible, make it an adult you trust such as a parent, guardian, or teacher. You could also talk to a friend, Anti-Bullying Ambassador, or support service. If your school has a young carers’ lead, then you should reach out to them for support. The Diana Award Crisis Messenger provides free, 24/7 crisis support across the UK. If you are a young person in crisis, you can text DA to 85258. Trained volunteers will listen to how you’re feeling and help you think the next step towards feeling better.
If you’re worried about bullying behaviour in the playground or walking home from school, you could hang around with people you know and trust. If the bullying behaviour takes place online, you can change your privacy settings or mute, block, or report it.
You should always write down who has been saying what to you, the date, time, and location this has taken place, and save/screenshot any messages received online.
4_Remember that it’s not your fault
You haven’t caused this bullying behaviour to take place. It is based a lack of understanding and you are not to blame. Try to surround yourself with people celebrate you for who you are and work to understand your experiences.
5_Challenge behaviour by being an Upstander
If you overhear comments and you feel safe to do so, you should explain to the person that their comments are hurtful and ask that they refrain from saying them in the future.
If the bullying behaviour you’re experiencing spills into threats or violence, or if you’re not happy with the way your school, college, university, or workplace have dealt with incidents you have reported, then you should report it to the police. If you are ever in immediate danger, call the police on 999.
Top tips for staff to support young carers
If you are a staff member in a school, there is a lot you can do to support students who are young carers and prevent bullying behaviour against this group of students. Here is a step by step guide to support young carers in your school.
- Firstly, it is very important that you aim to identify students who are young carers to ensure they are receiving enough support from the school. Identifying who is a young carer can allow you to provide flexibility for deadlines. ‘Early intervention can enable young carers to participate more fully in social and educational life and prevent long-term educational and health consequences for these young people’ (Department for Education, 2017). Many young carers provide such a high level of care that they regularly must miss school (The Children’s Society, 2013). It is essential to identify these students to ensure they have full access to school life and do not lost out on opportunities or become isolated.
- Raise awareness about young carers and disability and chronic illness by using Young Carers Awareness Day and Disability History Month to run assemblies that educate students about experiences that may be different to their own. Often, this type of behaviour stems from a lack of awareness about young carers and the role. Raising awareness will help to promote a culture of understanding and acceptance and reduce ignorance.
- Record incidents of bullying behaviour by category, including incidents against young carers. This ensures that your school tracks if this is a recurring issue and takes responsibility for changing this. Your school has a duty of care to students and should work to create an inclusive environment for all students, including young carers.
- Provide a safe space for young carers to talk to staff and/or other young carers about their experiences and challenges faced. Young carers have reported that they perceive their caring responsibilities to have a negative impact on their wellbeing and providing a safe space where they can discuss these concerns with peers and staff who are willing to listen and support can support wellbeing (Department for Education, 2017). Create posters to highlight this support is available and mention it in whole school assemblies to ensure students know that they can access this support.
You can further strengthen your work by implementing the Young Carers in Schools Award through The Children’s Society. This will guide you to ensure that you are identifying and supporting young carers at a high level. Find out more about this programme here.
Simple acts such as celebrating Young Carers Awareness Day and providing a lunchtime group for young carers can create a more inclusive environment and help to tackle bullying behaviour targeted at young carers.
Further support & resources
The Diana Award Crisis Messenger - Provides free, 24/7 crisis support across the UK. If you are a young person in crisis, you can text DA to 85258. Trained volunteers will listen to how you’re feeling and help you think the next step towards feeling better.
YoungMinds - The UK’s leading charity with information about mental health in young people
Aldrige et al. 2017. ‘The lives of young carers in England omnibus survey report: Research report’
'Hidden from view: The experiences of young carers in England', The Children’s Society, 2013.