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Young carers sitting exams face extra pressure, says charity

PRESSURE: Students (Photo credit: YouTube)

TEENAGERS WHO look after sick or disabled parents or relatives are put under huge stress at exam time with 70% of young carers aged 14 and over saying it’s the most difficult time, Barnardo’s can reveal.

This Mental Health Awareness Week, as hundreds of thousands of pupils prepare to sit GCSEs and A-levels this summer, the UK’s leading children’s charity is highlighting the extra strain young carers have to deal with at this pressurised time.

Young carers already struggle to juggle caring responsibilities with their school work and social development and are put under even more pressure when it comes to studying for their exams, research by Barnardo’s shows.

And Barnardo’s practitioners working with young carers agree; more than 90% felt that exam time was more difficult for young carers than their peers and every practitioner surveyed felt young carers face difficulties balancing their school work and caring responsibilities.

Young carers carry out tasks including cooking, cleaning and shopping, as well as providing intimate personal care, administering drugs and taking care of household finances.

Some children and young people carry out more than 30 hours a week of caring responsibilities on top of their school work – almost the equivalent of a full-time job.

Barnardo’s Chief Executive Javed Khan said: “Young carers have worries above and beyond the typical young person. Most young people could not imagine having to help feed a family member, keep on top of the housework or administer medicine to a parent.

“Exam time is stressful enough for the average teenager but when you take into account the extra responsibility and worries young carers have to deal with it can be extremely challenging.

“Constant care work inevitably impacts on their exam results, with many young carers paying the price for their dedication with lower outcomes and missing the chance to live up to their full potential, so it is vital schools step up their efforts to support young carers

“Looking after their family members is something that our young carers are incredibly proud of but it shouldn’t be at the expense of their childhoods or their futures.”

A survey conducted by YouGov for Barnardo’s earlier this year showed that school is already the leading cause of stress for 83% of 16 year-olds in England.

Above and beyond homework, exams and relationships, young carers often take the weight of their family’s stresses and strains on their shoulders with very little support.

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