This project, Innovative School Education Methodologies and Tools for Guaranteeing Social Inclusion of Young Carers (EDY-CARE) aimed to empower teachers and other school staff (e.g., school nurses, psychologists, social workers, management) in upper secondary education (ISCED-3 level) to recognise adolescent young carers (16-19 years old) in classes and maximize their learning opportunities, while ensuring their social inclusion.
The specific project objectives were as follows:
- To develop an assessment tool that could help teachers and school staff to identify young carers;
- To develop and test a package of educational strategies, didactical approaches and organisational adjustments that schools can take to facilitate young carers and to support them in their scholastic career;
- To produce a handbook providing guidelines and recommendations on how teachers and school staff can best work with young carers;
- To develop a massive open online course (MOOC) for training teachers and school staff on the phenomenon of young carers, their needs and preferences.
By making innovative educational methodologies and training available to school staff, EDY-CARE thereby contributes to the promotion of young carers-friendly school environments.
The EDY-CARE project was expected to achieve the following results during its lifetime (October 2017-March 2020) and beyond:
- a raised awareness among teachers and school staff of young carers’ needs;
- an empowerment of teachers and school staff on the ways to recognise and keep young carers involved in school;
- a new attitude of school staff on young carers and influence on other classes and institutes;
- to create new opportunities for peer recognition and awareness of young carers among school pupils;
- to make young carers more comfortable at school, satisfied with education and avoid drop outs;
- to increase the educational and social environment for young carers at school and combating their social exclusion, loneliness, social stigma, unmet educational and support needs.
Who are young carers and how many young carers are there?
A proportion of young people across Europe carry out a significant role in caring for their family member who is ill, disabled or misuses drugs or alcohol. These young people are defined in the literature as young carers (YCs), that is
“children and young persons under 18 who provide or intend to provide care, assistance or support to another family member. They carry out significant or substantial caring tasks, often on a regular basis, and assume a level of responsibility that would usually be associated with an adult”
Young adult carers are people aged 18-24 who provide or intend to provide care, assistance or support to another family member on an unpaid basis. The person receiving care is often a parent but can be a sibling, grandparent, partner, own child or other relative who is disabled, has some chronic illness, mental health problem or other condition (including substance misuse) connected with a need for care, support or supervision.
Despite the lack of specific figures on the number of YCs in Europe, the phenomenon is raising attention in many countries. In the United Kingdom, which has lead research on YCs in the last two decades, it is estimated that around 8% of population 11-18 years old are YCs. Similar figures apply to Sweden (7%, 14-16 years), whereas in other countries there are only more general data (in Italy, 2.8% of young people 15-24 years) or even none (as for Portugal and Slovenia).
The impact of caring on young people’s health, education, work opportunities and social inclusion
Caring activity can affect young carers’ education (e.g., under-achievement, absence and drop-outs) and social life (e.g., fewer social contacts, social stigma and bullying, less dedicated time for personal development and leisure).
In particular, being an adolescent YC is recognised as a risk factor for mental health and well-being, with around 50% experiencing care-related stress and 40% mental health problems (Carers Trust, 2016).
Such immediate negative consequences can lead to long-term health disadvantages for YCs in the life-course, such as increased risks for prolonged mental illness and occurrence of co-morbidities, and higher life-course social exclusion, due to lower educational qualifications and job opportunities.
Empowering school staff to identify and support YC in their educational career is vital to avoid these negative consequences and to allow young carers to engage fully with the educational and social opportunities available to them.
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