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Children’s Hearings Scotland launches new child-friendly feedback portal

Posted 11.08.23 by Alice Hinds

Children’s Hearings Scotland (CHS) is making it easier for children and young people to give feedback on their experiences by launching a new online child-friendly portal.

With young people telling CHS they sometimes left hearings feeling  “unable to express their views”, the Government agency has developed and launched the new tool to streamline the feedback procedure, ensuring children can have their voice heard at all points throughout the hearings process.

Now live on the CHS website, the portal will continue to be tested and refined in collaboration with children and young people, while on-going work with the Scottish Children’s Reporter’s Administration (SCRA) (click here for more) will develop a future “single point of entry” for children and families, removing concerns that young people do not have enough information on which organisation are responsible for the different parts of their care and support.

The implementation of the new feedback system is part of a wider programme of activity focused on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (click here for more) under CHS’s Promise Programme, and comes as the Hearings for Children report (click here for more), published in May, recommended finding new ways to receive and respond to observations, comments and concerns about the Children’s Panel system.

Mel McDonald, from the Practice and Standards Team at CHS, said: "It is crucial that we learn from children’s feedback and to do this effectively we need to remove barriers.

"This can mean getting feedback at a time and a place that works for the child and in an environment where they feel comfortable and have the support of trusted adults.”

For more information, click here to visit the Children’s Hearings Scotland website:

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News: Investment announced for new Bairns’ Hoose test sites across Scotland

Posted 02.06.23 by Alice Hinds

New funding has been announced to establish Bairns’ Hoose test sites across Scotland, providing “coordinated, comprehensive support under one roof” for children and young people in the justice system.

Informed by the Barnahus model, which was first developed in Iceland, local authorities, health boards, the Police and third sector organisations will partner to apply for a share of the new £6 million fund for 2023-24, establishing safe spaces where children, as victims and witnesses, can access a range of trauma-informed support.

Currently, according to Children 1st (click here for more), children involved in a crime may have to relive what has happened to them up to 14 times, speaking with different people in different settings, including police, social workers, doctors and nurses. Sometimes this happens without a family member or loved present, adding to the trauma of being a victim or witness of crime.

Implemented as a key action from The Promise (click here for more), and underpinned by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), the Bairns’ Hoose model ensures therapeutic support, child protection, recovery and justice services are available in one place.

Available support will include Police and social work-led joint investigative interviews, including deployment of the new Scottish Child Interview Model, health and wellbeing assessments, and counselling services for both the child and wider family.

The fund is expected to enable five multi-agency test sites to be created, with learning providing a blueprint for a full pilot of Bairns’ Hoose in 2025.

Minister for Children, Young People and Keeping the Promise, Natalie Don said: “The creation of Bairns’ Hoose is a key action in Keeping the Promise and I would like to pay tribute to the determination and resilience to everyone who has contributed their expertise and time to help bring the Barnahus model to Scotland.

“The experiences of the children who will access Bairns’ Hoose are in many cases absolutely appalling and ones which nobody, let alone a child, should have to go through.

“This funding marks a significant step in the development of Bairns’ Hoose in Scotland, and offers us a chance to provide wrap around care, recovery and justice for children in a way which best responds to their trauma, needs and circumstances.”

Last year, Children in Scotland joined a partnership, led by Children 1st, calling for the development of a Barnahus model in Scotland, and our Manifesto for 2021-26 (click here for more) includes a call for political parties to commit to learning from the findings of the Scottish Barnahus pilot.

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News: Scouts Scotland extends human rights learning badge

Posted 19.05.23 by Alice Hinds

The Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland and Scouts Scotland have announced new resources for younger children to learn about human rights, extending the Rights Challenge Badge to members as young as four.

Following the successful introduction of the badge to Cubs and Scouts groups in May 2022, around 10,000 Squirrels, aged four to five, and Beavers, aged six to eight, can now take part in a range of activities designed to help young people learn about their rights and the rights of others.

The newly adapted activities to gain the badge will include den-building to highlight the right to a safe, warm home, making green slime to think about what is “snot fair” in the local community, and creating a human rights shield to discuss what is important to each Squirrel and Beaver, and what rights they would defend.

Designed by Christopher, an 11-year-old Scout from Lenzie, East Dunbartonshire, the badge features the international human rights dove logo soaring over Earth beside the Scouts’ Fleur de Lis symbol.

“I am excited to hear that the Rights Challenge Badge is going to be available to Squirrels and Beavers,” said Christopher. “It is really important that children learn about their rights as early as possible. When I completed the badge, my group made a 'clootie tree'.

We wrote down what we thought rights were about and we made them into leaves to create a tree. We also played a fun game trying to work out if the rights being called out were real or made up. I learnt a lot by completing the badge in my group. It was fun and really educational. I hope everyone who completes the activities enjoys them as much as I did."

Launching the badge, outgoing Children and Young People's Commissioner, Bruce Adamson said: “We are excited to launch the Rights Challenge Badge to Squirrels and Beavers. Children are never too young to learn about and claim their human rights and the activities within the badge will empower them with new skills and knowledge and help them to become true human rights defenders.

Cubs and Scouts have told us they are really enjoying doing the badge, and some Squirrels have tested the activities and they also had loads of fun. I can’t wait to see the youngest members of Scouting in Scotland gaining their Rights Challenge Badges.”

Click here for more information:

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Domestic abuse legislation is supporting victims better, but delays to justice still an issue

Posted 10 January, 2023 by Jennifer Drummond

Research has found extending Scotland’s domestic abuse laws to include emotional and psychological abuse has had a beneficial impact but delays in the justice system are still failing victims.

The small-scale study conducted by Glasgow Caledonian University, the University of Edinburgh and the Scottish Government found that by recognising abuse as a pattern of behaviour, the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018 closer matches victims’ accounts of psychological and physical harm over time.

Based on responses from 69 domestic abuse victims and witnesses, the study also found most women felt engaging with the criminal justice system about domestic abuse was ‘the right decision’ to take.

However, the report submitted to the Scottish Government did highlight the need for improvements in how cases are handled, in order to provide victims with a greater voice in proceedings and better support through the process. Other areas of improvement included making judicial processes quicker and more efficient and providing better training for justice professionals.

Claire Houghton from the University of Edinburgh, and one of the authors of the interim report said:

“It is reassuring that victims and witnesses welcomed the expanded scope of the domestic abuse law.

“However, our study found it has yet to reach its potential – adult and child victims and witnesses are still experiencing trauma and delays within the justice system and perpetrators are not adequately held to account for the harm to the whole family.

“We look forward to working with our justice partners, alongside victims and witnesses of domestic abuse, to improve people’s experiences of the system and support the vital work of specialist agencies.”

Legal protections for victims of abuse

The ground-breaking Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018 was brought into force in April 2019.

This was supported by the Scottish Government’s Vision for Justice, published in February 2022, which set out that urgent action is required to ensure women and children are better served in Scotland’s justice system.

A number of measures have already been implemented including the establishment of a £48m Victim-Centred Approach Fund to provide practical and emotional support for victims and a Justice Recovery Fund to help reduce the backlog of court cases.

Click here to read more about the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018 interim reporting requirement

Headshot_Lucy McKee

Comment: We need more action on the use of restraint and seclusion in schools

Posted 23 November, 2022 by Jennifer Drummond

Three years on from its report into the use of restraint and seclusion in schools, ENABLE Scotland has highlighted the lack of progress. Here, Lucy McKee (pictured), reiterates the call for more to be done to protect the rights of disabled young people.

As an ENABLE Scotland Ambassador, my role is to raise awareness of our work to promote and support the rights of people with learning disabilities throughout Scotland. An important issue for the rights of young people with learning disabilities we have been campaigning on is the use of restraint and seclusion in schools, where young people are physically restrained or removed from classrooms as a result of behaviours directly linked to their disability. For too many young people, this has resulted in physical and emotional injury which have lasting effects for them and their family.

Legislative change

We believe there need to be new laws to protect young people from the damage caused by restraint and seclusion.

In 2019 we published our report, In Safe Hands, which provided testimony from young people and parents of how they had been affected by restraint and seclusion. It highlighted the fact these practices are used on hundreds of occasions in schools each year.

ENABLE Scotland Trustee and campaigner Beth Morrison has campaigned on this issue for many years since her son Calum was forcefully restrained in his school setting. Since 2010, Beth has campaigned tirelessly for Calum’s Law on restraint and seclusion. Since 2019 when ENABLE published In Safe Hands, Beth took calls from over 600 families who claim their child has been the victim of seclusion and/or restraint in their school setting. She is now working with Daniel Johnson MSP who is examining the potential to bring forward a Members' Bill on restraint and seclusion in the Scottish Parliament.

Slow progress

The campaigns which ENABLE and Beth have worked on together to raise awareness of these incidents led to the Scottish Government consulting on new guidance for staff in schools to reduce the use of restraint and seclusion. During the Scottish Government’s consultation, ENABLE published a new report, In Safe Hands Yet. This report stated that, three years after we called for action, there has not been enough progress to protect the rights of young people with learning disabilities on this important issue.

Call to action

While we welcome the consultation on new guidance for schools, we are concerned that this will be non-binding and does not go far enough. In Safe Hands Yet calls for urgent action to:

  • Publish statutory guidance
  • Centrally monitor and regulate the use of restraint and seclusion in schools
  • Introduce and mandate training for education staff in strategies to minimise the need for seclusion and restraint in schools
  • Launch a national strategy to eliminate the use of seclusion and restraint in our schools.

We believe the Scottish Government’s proposed Learning Disability, Autism and Neurodiversity Bill also gives us the chance to change the law. We do not want to have to ask the question 'in safe hands yet?' again in another three years with little progress. We want to see concrete action being taken to protect the human rights of children and young people with learning disabilities in our schools.

Lucy McKee is ENABLE Scotland’s Membership Ambassador

Click here to visit the In Safe Hands campaign pages

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Comment: We've made progress on children's rights - but not enough

Posted 18 November, 2022 by Jennifer Drummond

For 18 years, the office of the Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland has fiercely and proudly championed children’s rights. Here, Bruce Adamson (pictured) reflects on progress, what still needs to be done and why we need to quicken the pace of change.

Sunday 20 November is World Children’s Day. This year’s theme is “a better future for every child” – something which resonates in my office. But our work doesn’t just focus on the future. Children are rights-holders now. They are an integral part of our communities, with many child human rights defenders ensuring a better future for all. But to build a better future, we need to ensure rights are respected in the present. We must also learn from the past.

In April, the office of the Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland turned 18. We have championed children’s human rights for an entire childhood. That is a lot of learning.

Rights-based practices

It starts with putting children’s rights and voices at the centre of law, policy, and practice. That means listening to children, and their views, ideas, and experiences. That culture of participation – whether it’s through our Young Advisers, wider work to ensure children’s views are included and heard at the highest levels, or educational engagement like our Rights Challenge badge with Scouts Scotland – is at the heart of everything we do. For much of the pandemic, this moved online and being able to speak to children face-to-face in their own communities again has been a joy. Celebrating our birthday with nursery children in Linlithgow was full of laughter, and of course, cake.

But it’s not just advocating for children, we need to empower them to claim their rights.

Max, 11, told us: “It’s important to know your rights so they can’t be taken away from you.”

Empowering young people 

I’m proud of the growing culture of recognising child human rights defenders. Children from Scotland made a huge contribution to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child Day of General Discussion in 2018 (click here to access) and we were involved in the creation of the global implementation guide on the rights of child human rights defenders (click here to access). In 2019 our Young Human Rights Defenders Action Group laid the report Promote, Protect, Defend (click here to access) before the Scottish Parliament with recommendations to ensure child human rights defenders were supported.

A better future is being built by child human rights defenders, for example in the fight for climate justice. I’ve repeatedly written to Directors of Education to ensure they understand the important role that activism can play in education and the need to support young climate activists. We see child human rights defenders in our communities at all levels, demanding radical reforms on big issues like mental health, poverty, and discrimination, but also fighting for the smaller changes that make a big difference.

There have been hard-won victories over the last 18 years, making a positive difference to children’s lives. But there is so much still to be done.

Gaps in progress

Although it took too long to come into force, equal protection against assault now means children have legal protection from physical punishment.

The minimum age of criminal responsibility was increased from eight to 12 last year – still two years below the international minimum standard. Scotland’s low age of criminal responsibility and the continuing detention of children in prisons paints a bleak picture of our commitment to children’s rights. The pace of change is unacceptably slow and the consequences of Scottish Government delays often tragic.

Poverty (click here to access more) has been one of the most significant human rights issues throughout our 18 years, with one in four children living in poverty. It affects every aspect of children’s lives and robs them of their childhood. We have helped secure increased support in Scotland and, with the other UK Children’s Commissioners, have challenged the UK Government’s failures on social security. But there is more to be done at every level. Allowing poverty to continue is a political choice, it’s not inevitable.

Care experienced children still face challenges to their rights. Along with others, our early work helped secure the Independent Care Review. The Promise now gives hope of change, but care experienced young people are frustrated at government assurances still undelivered.

Covid created a human rights crisis. It affected all children and disproportionately impacted those whose rights were already most at risk – including children living in poverty, disabled children, care experienced children, children of prisoners, young carers, and children from ethnic minority backgrounds.

The importance of incorporating the UNCRC into Scots Law

But there is a bright light for a better future when we finally incorporate the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (click here for more) (UNCRC) into Scots law. It’s the most important thing we can do to ensure children’s rights are respected, protected, and fulfilled. Last year, the Scottish Parliament unanimously voted for incorporation. The Supreme Court subsequently ruled some sections of the Bill went beyond the Parliament’s powers.

The Scottish Government has committed to bring forward amendments, but children are still waiting. Every day of delay is a day when children don’t have their rights protected.

The UNCRC requires that we use all available resources to the maximum extent possible to ensure children’s rights. We know that rights-based budgeting and supporting relationships around families, like community and early years practitioners, youth work, and school-based supports, make a huge difference in children’s lives.

On this World Children’s Day, I’m urging all decision-makers to commit to ensuring children’s recovery from the pandemic is rights-based. I’m again calling on the Scottish Government to urgently bring the UNCRC Incorporation Bill back to Parliament and commit to immediate commencement once it’s passed. That way we can truly make “a better future for every child” but – more importantly – it will improve children’s lives today. We can’t afford to wait until tomorrow.

Bruce Adamson is Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland.


Education Improvement: Data gathering must be accurate, considered and purposeful

Children in Scotland has responded to the Scottish Government’s latest consultation on the Education National Improvement Framework (NIF) applauding its overall aim but warning data gathered must be accurate and appropriate in order to lead to tangible improvements.

In our consultation response, we welcome the Education National Improvement Framework and its ambition to widen recognition of achievement, close the poverty-related attainment gap and place the needs and rights of every young person at the centre of education.

Our rights-based response is informed by engagement with children and young people across advisory groups and projects in the past two years and the real concerns we have heard from them about education.

Our recently completed project 'Young People and Their Data', in partnership with the Scottish Centre for Administrative Data Research (SCADR), supported an acknowledgement of the importance of appropriate, accurate and transparent data in order to achieve the ambition of the Education NIF in providing benchmarks and measurable goals for the future.

Our response outlines key recommendations, including:

  • a focus on improving the attainment of all children
  • more engagement with services including Enquire, My Rights My Say and the national Inclusion Ambassadors to identify educational inequalities and defining what action can be taken to make tangible improvements
  • end the use of non-contextualised data, which can lead to inaccurate conclusions, as particularly evident with regards to attendance and exclusion figures for children and young people with additional support needs
  • use a holistic assessment tool for children in the early years, when gaps begin to become apparent, such as the internationally recognised Early Development Instrument (EDI) which focuses on more than just literacy and numeracy.

Whilst welcoming the willingness of the Scottish Government to extend recognition of achievement beyond academic qualifications, we are aware of the inequalities of opportunity to achieve outwith school depending on geography, socio-economic group or other factors. Progress on a ‘hobby premium’, as recommended in our Manifesto for 2021-26 (click here to read), may go some way to begin to address this.

Finally, we highlight the requirement to ensure children, young people and their families are made fully aware of how their data is collected, stored and used.

Elaine Kerridge, Policy Manager - Projects and Participation, said:

“We applaud the overall intentions of the Education National Improvement Framework but do have some concerns over the accuracy of the data currently gathered.

“Ultimately, we appreciate data gathering is an important tool in service improvement. It provides a starter marker, creates a benchmark for comparisons and provides a tangible and measurable end goal. It is important, therefore, that we get this right.

“Children in Scotland has been involved in a number of projects to contribute to the growing body of evidence around education reform. We hope these, as well as ongoing reviews into education in Scotland will contribute to a national conversation and meaningful, demonstrable improvement in this area.”

The  National Improvement Framework and improvement plan was published in December 2021 and sets out the vision and priorities for Scottish education, as well as national improvement activity that is to be undertaken.

A consultation seeking views on improving the collection of data to assess progress towards closing the poverty-related attainment gap closed on 18 July.

Click here to read our response in full

Education Framework

Read our response to the Education NIF consultation

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Join us in membership

Find out more about the benefits of membership

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Manifesto 2021-26

Including calls on Tackling Inequality, Early Years and Learning

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Our vision and values

Find out more about the vision and values that guide us

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People, not numbers

Latest news: New report reveals young people's views on data

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News: New rights-focused badge for Scottish Scouts

Posted 13 May, 2022 by Jennifer Drummond

The Children and Young People’s Commissioner and Scouts Scotland have launched a new Rights Challenge Badge, to empower youngsters to learn about and understand their rights.

The Rights Challenge Badge has been designed to help young people find out more about their own human rights and their connection to the rights of others. It is also intended to promote adult leaders’ awareness of children’s rights.

In development for the past 10 months, Scouts Scotland has worked alongside young people at every stage. Cubs, Scouts, MSYPs and the Children’s Commissioner’s Young Advisors were all involved in the badge design, layout and overall content.

The badge logo was designed by Christopher, age 10, from East Dunbartonshire. It features a dove soaring over Earth beside the Scouts symbol.

Bruce Adamson, Children and Young People’s Commissioner for Scotland, said:

“We are delighted to launch this new Rights Challenge Badge. We’ve created a human rights resource pack with a range of activities to encourage Cubs and Scouts to get creative, to have fun, to debate and discuss different issues around rights, giving them the skills to raise the issues that matter to them with those in power to deliver positive change in their communities. Knowing about their rights will help Scouts claim them and the skills gained with this badge will equip them to act as true human rights defenders.”

Andrew Sharkey, Scouts Chief Commissioner of Scotland added:

“It has been a privilege working with the Children’s Commissioner and his team to create this great resource. Children and young people are at the heart of everything we do in Scouting. Their awareness of their rights and the embedding of them into our core programme is vitally important if Scouts Scotland is to be truly youth shaped whilst developing the next generation of Scotland’s citizens.”

The Rights Challenge Badge is now available to all Cubs and Scouts across Scotland to complete. Activities include creating a shield to highlight what is important to them and what rights they would defend, an interactive exercise to challenge decision-makers in their communities and beyond, and creating a fun, artistic representation of rights.

Click here to find out more about the Rights Challenge Badge

A time to learn, look beyond – and show common cause

30 March 2022

In the midst of despair about the war in Ukraine, our CEO Jude Turbyne reflects on the contribution we can all make to defending children’s rights there and around the world

Two years of wall-to-wall coverage of the pandemic. Two years of high levels of anxiety. Two years of working out new ways of living, being and working. And just as it felt as if we might be coming through the other side, there was suddenly war in Ukraine, with up close and personal footage 24 hours a day.

It has forced us to lift our heads up and look out, and we have seen lots of positive solidarity with the Ukrainian people suddenly affected by violence and displacement.

Conflict will tend to have a disproportionate impact on children. Frequently, wars creep into the domestic setting, essential infrastructure that is needed to guarantee even basic levels of health is attacked, and the vulnerability of children to the outcomes of conflict is profound.

Children in conflict are likely to start going hungry, become ill with preventable disease, lose their chance at an education and be at greater risk of sexual violence. The mental trauma of conflict and war in children is significant and can lead to long-term damage if support is not available.

In short, it becomes almost impossible for the rights of children to be fulfilled in a war setting. And the impact is exacerbated depending on different personal characteristics; for instance, gender, age, disability status, ethnicity, religion and where the child lives. Save the Children and the Children and War Foundation have some good insights into the impact of conflict on children.

Click here for more information on Save the Children

Click here for more information on the Children and War Foundation

It is estimated that already more than 1.5 million children have fled the violence in Ukraine. If you keep going another 4,000 miles south and slightly east of Ukraine, you reach Yemen, where, due to conflict and environmental challenges, at least 11 million children are estimated as needing humanitarian assistance. And Yemen is not even number one in the very depressing top ten of humanitarian crises published by the International Rescue Committee; it is third behind Afghanistan and Ethiopia.

Click here to read the International Rescue Committee’s top 10 humanitarian crises

What can we do in these difficult situations? While we might empathise and sympathise, there is a feeling of powerlessness that comes from the scale of the problems and the fact that they are happening far from home. But while we can’t solve global problems by ourselves individually, there are things that we can do.

Taking the Ukraine situation as an example, there are real practical needs in terms of supporting those affected by the crisis. The best way to help is to donate money. While it might feel tempting to collect goods, it is much easier to source these closer to the conflict, based on the actual needs at the time.

One good route of donating is through the Disasters Emergency Committee which brings together 15 leading UK charities to raise funds quickly and efficiently. As you will see if you go to the site, there is currently also an appeal running for Afghanistan.

Click here to find out more about the Disasters Emergency Committee and consider donating

There will be many people in Scotland who are more severely affected by the situation in Ukraine because of their direct links. Having a listening ear and making sure people have somewhere to go to can be helpful. The Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland has produced a good blog where you can find sources of help. It also explains how you can show direct solidarity child-to-child, a suggestion from the Children’s Commission in Ukraine.

Click here to read the blog by the Children's Commissioner

As Ukrainian refugees start to arrive in Scotland, there will be ways of offering practical support and resources at a local community level. The website of the Scottish Refugee Council is a good place go to read about what is happening with Ukrainian refugees.

Engagement with Europe is important to us as an organisation, and always has been. We are members of Eurochild, a network of organisations and individuals working with and for children in Europe. They have a wealth of resources on the Ukrainian conflict available on their website.

Click here to find out about Eurochild’s resources on the conflict in Ukraine

All these examples of partnership and advocacy demonstrate why the power of solidarity should never be underestimated.

Here I’ve reflected mostly on the Ukrainian situation. But I am so aware of the many children around the world who are experiencing conflict or environmental disasters which make it so difficult for their rights to be realised.

Our vision is that ‘all children in Scotland have an equal chance to flourish’. How much better would our world be if, globally, all children had that chance?

About the author

Jude Turbyne has worked extensively in the field of international development

Click here for more

Bringing together 15 UK aid charities...

DEC raises funds quickly and efficiently at times of humanitarian crisis overseas

Click to find out more

Eurochild resources

This network organisation offers a range of resources on the crisis in Ukraine

Click to find out more

A rights-based view on children and war

A blog by the Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland details where you can find sources of help

Click here to read

Leading responses to humanitarian crises

The IRC helps people whose lives and livelihoods are shattered by conflict

Click here for more

Helping children get a future they deserve

Save the Children is working to ensure children keep safe, healthy and learning worldwide

Click to find out more
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Q&A with Jennifer Lewis: Identifying and supporting young carers

Posted 22 March 2022, by Catherine Bromley

Ahead of our webinar on the topic, Jennifer Lewis (pictured) talks us through some of the myths about caregiving roles and explains how greater awareness can really help the ‘hidden’.

In terms of understanding, do you think there’s enough awareness that being a young carer constitutes not only a young person looking after a parent or sibling in the home but also being affected by someone in the home?

I think there is often a misunderstanding that ‘caregiving’ only starts when the carer is providing intimate and health-related care, e.g. washing, helping to get dressed, helping with medication. But often it is much subtler than that. Dearden and Becker, renowned academics with substantial experience of researching young carers, have reported that 85% of young carers take on an ‘emotional caring role’ which has been described as 'Emotional Labour'.

This can be categorised as looking out for someone, trying to cheer them up, reminding them to behave in a certain way or simply being concerned about the health of someone they love. As part of our training, we ask professionals to consider the impact of the ill health of the cared-for person on the child and to be mindful that even if the child is not completing any physical tasks, they may be hugely impacted by worry and concern for another.

Is it often the case that young people themselves don’t realise that they’re in a caregiving role and that they’re entitled to support?

Absolutely, often it can take years for children to realise that they are taking on a caregiving role that is different to the experiences of their non-caregiving peers.

Current research suggests that 40% of young carers have not told anyone, outside of the home, that they are providing care.

The NHS suggests that it can take adults two years to formally identify as a carer so we can assume that it could take longer for children, for a variety of reasons. For example, a child may never have heard the term ‘young carer’. They may not have been able to compare their experiences to others and caring may be normalised within the family in a cycle that has prevailed for generations.

One key aspect of our Schools Awareness Project is talking directly to children through workshops and assemblies in schools where we discuss caring through stories and pictures; sometimes, children identify straight away, leading to an immediate awareness of hidden young carers.

Can you tell us a bit about your background and how it’s informed your experience in identifying young carers?

I have always worked around children and education, but I believe the ‘thread’ that made me want this role was working as a teacher in an inner London school for four years. As part of my PGCE, young carers were never discussed or mentioned, so it was a shock when my mentor identified a child in my NQT class as being a young carer. Looking back now, I realise that he was showing a lot of the indication factors; frequently late, appearing very tired, hesitant to leave his mum at the gate, and very distracted in class.

I still think of that child now and just how little I knew about the subject. If I felt this way, how many other teachers were similarly unaware? Barnardo’s suggests that 40% of teachers would not know how to identify a young carer. Therefore, I have made it my mission to empower teachers, school leaders and professionals with the knowledge and information to support the young carers in their setting.

How can we support professionals to be confident in identifying ways they can reach out and help young carers and their families?

Asking for help is key. We do not expect professionals to become instant experts after attending one of our workshops, but we aim to instil confidence in the professionals to consider their children and, if something concerns them, to ask the question.

The biggest advice I can give is to link up with your local young carers service and ask their advice if you suspect you have identified a young carer. They will then be able to support you on the next steps to take.

We can provide advice about how to open up the conversation with the family, where to make a referral for respite or a Young Carers Statement, and the child’s rights under the Carers Act. A young carers service can guide you through all of these issues.

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned in supporting young carers through your wide experience as a teacher and a trainer?

I have learned that every child and experience is unique. I definitely had some misconceptions about young carers before I took on this role, but now I have worked with our (amazing) young people, I realise that any child can become a young carer. I believe the most significant support is recognition and flexibility for the young person, just as we do with adult carers. Sometimes having a trusted adult who is aware of the home situation and is open for a chat and a listening ear can make a huge difference to that child's life.

Jennifer Lewis is School Project Manager at Edinburgh Young Carers.

Edinburgh Young Carers one of the most well-established and largest organisations in Scotland dedicated to working with and supporting young carers. Click here for more information