Policy last updated
4 November 2020
This policy sets out requirements for schools and education providers to identify young carers and ensure they are supported.
- If a young carer is identified, this must be recorded in CASES21.
- Principals should establish a Student Support Group for the young person with caring responsibilities and an Individual Education Plan where this would help to address the needs of the young person.
- If a young carer is identified, a trusted school staff member or other professional must follow up with the student to determine what supports the young person might benefit from, including considering reasonable adjustments and referral to relevant external support services.
- The Guidance tab provides detailed information for schools on identifying and supporting young carers.
The Department is committed to identifying and supporting students who are young carers. A young carer is a young person under 25 years of age who provides, or intends to provide care, assistance or support to a family member with a mental illness, physical illness, disability, chronic illness, or who is aged or has an addiction. The level and regularity of care provided is more than might be expected of a young person of a similar age or cultural affiliation. The care that young carers provide may be ongoing, time-limited or episodic.
When a young carer has been identified, schools must:
- record the status of the student as a young carer in CASES21
- explain to the student, in age appropriate way, and their family that young carer status will be noted on their records to ensure they get all the supports they need
- establish a Student Support Group, where appropriate
- establish an Individual Education Plan, where appropriate
- make reasonable adjustments within school to facilitate the student’s learning in the context of their caring responsibilities
- make the student/family aware of relevant external supports that can assist with responding to the student’s needs
- ensure all relevant staff at the school are aware of the young carer status (in keeping with privacy and confidentiality parameters) and the subsequent support the school has put in place
Further, more detailed information on identifying and supporting young carers is available on the Guidance tab.
External support services available to young carers
Integrated Carer Support Services (ICSS) — The Commonwealth Government funded ICSS provides a range of online services through the Carer Gateway. Services include counselling, peer support, coaching and educational resources. These supports can be accessed through the Carer Gateway which is available at .
— A national peak organisation supporting young people who provide care for a family member by linking them to peer support groups, school holiday programs, and leadership and personal development opportunities.
Support for Carers program — The Victorian Support for Carers Program provides person centred respite and other support to carers:
- one-off or short term support for carers including goods and equipment, that can add to other services or fill service gaps
- support to people in a care relationship, and at the same time and place if people want to be together while having the support service
- supporting people's wellbeing — quality of life, physical and mental wellbeing, social activity and or social connections
Families where a Parent has a Mental Illness (FaPMI) — FaPMI Coordinators are based across the state in local area mental health service catchment areas. They work to reduce the impact of parental mental illness on all family members through timely, coordinated, preventative and supportive action within adult mental health services.
— Provide individual advocacy, support and referral for family members and friends supporting someone with mental health challenges. Supports are available to any person of any age who is supporting a family member or friend with mental health issues.
— Specific to children and young people where a parent has a mental illness, Satellite’s programs and activities foster creativity, providing opportunities for peer support and strengthening skills in overcoming challenges while offering information to young people and families to help them make sense of what is happening.
Emerging Minds and — Focuses on promoting better outcomes for children and families where a parent experiences mental illness, COPMI has merged with Emerging Minds (the National Workforce Centre for Child Mental Health). Both sites provide a range of useful resources for children and young people with a parent with a mental illness.
Young carers and the law
Young carers are recognised in Victorian legislation in the Carers Recognition Act 2012 (the Act), the Mental Health Act 2014, as well as Federal legislation, the Carers Recognition Act 2010. The Act formally recognises and values the role of carers and the importance of care relationships in the Victorian community.
State government departments, local government authorities and funded organisations bound by the Act have to consider the principles in the Act and consider the Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006 when making laws, setting policies and providing services.
- be respected and recognised
- as an individual with their own needs
- as a carer
- as someone with special knowledge of the person in their care
- be supported as an individual and as a carer, including during changes to the care relationship
- be recognised for their efforts and dedication as a carer and for the social and economic contribution to the community arising from their role as a carer
- have their views and cultural identity taken into account, together with the views, cultural identity, needs and best interests of the person for whom they care, in matters relating to the care relationship - this includes when decisions are made that impact on the carer and the care relationship
- have their social wellbeing and health recognised in matters relating to the care relationship
- have the effects of being a carer be factored into decision making regarding their participation in employment and education
Identifying and Supporting Young Carers – guidance for schools and education providers
This guidance contains the following chapters:
- About young carers
- The role of schools in identification, response and support
Inclusive education for young carers
The Department is committed to inclusive education in all educational settings for all students. All students irrespective of the school or educational setting they attend and regardless of their situation, should be supported to engage in education and provided with the opportunity to achieve. This includes young carers who may experience greater barriers and challenges due to their caring responsibilities, that can impact on their engagement in education as well as their social and emotional wellbeing.
The purpose of this guidance is to:
- support the implementation of the Young Carers Policy for schools and education providers
- provide information about what schools need to do to support students with caring responsibilities
- provide information for a range of services to assist schools and education providers to support young carers to succeed in education and beyond
About young carers
About young carers
Who is a young carer?
A young carer is a young person under 25 years of age who provides, or intends to provide care, assistance or support to a family member with a mental illness, physical illness, disability, chronic illness, or who is aged or has an addiction. The level and regularity of care provided is more than might be expected of a young person of a similar age or cultural affiliation. The care that young carers provide may be ongoing, time-limited or episodic.
A young carer may undertake tasks that may be physical, emotional or a combination of both. This may include for example:
- emotional support (such as listening to, talking with, reassuring and calming the person who they care for, assisting with behaviour management)
- practical tasks (such as preparing food, cleaning the house, supermarket shopping, paying bills)
- medical care (such as making appointments, taking to appointments, helping with medical equipment, buying medication and communication with health care professionals)
- personal care (such as washing, dressing, toileting)
- family support (such as looking after siblings, making school lunches, helping to get siblings ready for school and getting them to school and helping siblings with homework)
- advocacy support (such as interpreting and translating, communication support with family members and health care professionals)
Responsibilities of young carers
Whilst young carers are difficult to categorise given the diversity of this cohort and given the range of situations and contexts in which caring can occur, researchers have developed a care continuum to depict the difference between the tasks taken on by young carers and other normal childhood responsibilities.
Continuum of care
Light End: Young carers provide 0-19 hours of care per week
Routine levels and types of caregiving including some help with instrumental activities of daily living. Household tasks and caregiving tasks can be considered age and culturally appropriate for child’s age, e.g. entertaining siblings, taking out the rubbish, making beds.
Heavy End: Young carers provide 20-49 hours of care per week:
Caregiving tasks and responsibilities increase in amount, regularity, complexity, time involved, intimacy and duration, e.g. making school lunches for sibling, cooking dinner without parent support, doing grocery shopping for the household.
Very Heavy End: Young carers provide 50+ hours of care per week:
Substantial, regular and significant caregiving including considerable help with instrumental activities of daily living. Household tasks and caregiving tasks can be considered age and culturally inappropriate, e.g. measuring out and delivering medication, bathing a parent, catheter care, supporting with physical therapy.
The levels of the continuum are displayed left to right from light end to heavy end to very heavy end.
While the continuum of care provides a helpful guide to conceptualise the different levels of caring, some young carers may be episodic young carers. In some instances, carers may experience an intensive peak in caring responsibilities which may then taper off to more regular caring responsibilities.
What impact can caring responsibilities have on a young person?
Being a young carer can impact on a young person’s life in a range of ways. Many young carers emphasise that caring is a positive experience however, when inadequately supported, their own health and wellbeing can be seriously affected. Some of the negative characteristics associated with being a young carer that can impact on educational outcomes and experiences include:
- Education, training and employment:
- frequently miss school because of their caring responsibilities; they have no time to complete homework, feel worried and distracted when they are at school and experience limited connectedness with their school community
- 'at risk' of not making successful transitions into the workforce
- opportunities for the future are severely limited by the caring role. Carers are often unable to leave the family home, gain employment and/or gain financial independence
- Health and wellbeing:
- risk of poor physical health due to many factors including stress, limited sleep and inappropriate or incorrect lifting and carrying
- mental health can be affected to impaired psychosocial development, low self-esteem and unresolved feelings of fear, worry, sadness, anger, resentment and guilt
- Social participation:
- experience alienation and isolation due to the physical and emotional demands of their caring role, their families' limited income and the limited 'spare time' available to them
- less likely to have meaningful friendships due to the demands of caring, their belief that they cannot trust people and talk to them about their caring role, the social stigma and misunderstanding in the community associated with illness and disability
- Family relationships:
- relationships with other members of the family can be negatively affected and become strained
- when entering adolescence, family relationships often become more complex and difficult and can be further complicated by the caring role
- Financial security:
- carers are usually reliant on their families for financial support. The majority of these families are dependent upon inadequate social security benefits and can experience poverty.
Some of the positive impacts associated with being a young carer include:
- enhanced coping mechanisms
- the development of life, social and other skills
- increased maturity
- a sense of purpose
- closer attachments to family
The role of schools in identification, response and support
The role of schools in identification, response and support
Schools can play a critical role in supporting young carers to engage and remain engaged in education through early identification and early intervention. When young carers are supported, acknowledged and respected in their own right they are able to achieve and participate more actively at school and in their community. This is critical in ensuring that young carers have every opportunity to thrive at school and beyond. Supporting young carers will not only improve outcomes for these students, but can also help to improve school attendance, engagement and attainment levels.
Identifying young carers
Identifying that a student has caring responsibilities is an important enabling step for schools to respond to and support the education of the student. Young carers can be in both primary school and secondary school. A large proportion of young carers experience barriers in disclosing their experience as a young carer, although this is not the case for all young carers. Many young people with significant caring responsibilities do not see themselves as a ‘young carer’. This is an important consideration for schools when identifying young carers.
There are a number of ways schools may identify young carers, for example:
- a teacher or other staff member has concerns about the young person and enquires about these concerns with the young person
- the student discloses their caring responsibilities to a school staff member
- a support service involved with the student notifies the school
- the person being cared for notifies the school
- staff can refer to the to assist with identifying young carers.
Looking out for the signs
There are a number of signs that a student may have caring responsibilities. These signs can also be indicators of other circumstances; for example, these signs may be similar to those experienced by a student who is being bullied. While it is important to not make assumptions that someone is a young carer because they are exhibiting certain behaviours or patterns, it is useful to have a sense of some of the common signs. These signs can prompt conversations which determine whether a student is a young carer and if they need support. Students exhibiting the following signs should be considered by school staff:
- punctuality – arriving late to school with no clear explanation or handing in assignments late with no clear explanation
- stress – exhibiting signs that they are stressed or overwhelmed
- isolation – appearing to be isolated from others or may be experiencing bullying
- attendance/absences/truancy – frequently missing days from school with no clear explanation
- lack of parental involvement or engagement – parents of the student do not attend parent teacher interviews or school meetings with no clear explanation
- behaviour – not focusing during class or is disruptive
- academic performance – underperforming or has been previously performing but can’t maintain it
- fatigue – demonstrating an inability to concentrate and complaining of tiredness.
Recording young carer status in CASES21
From March 2020, CASES21 includes a field for young carer status. When school staff become aware that a young person has caring responsibilities, they should:
- let the student/parent know that the school will record the young carer status in CASES21 to assist them to be better supported
- if appropriate, determine the level of care being provided by the young carer using the continuum of care as a guide. For some carers, they may be providing episodic care. Others may be caring more regularly. This is likely to be fluid and can change depending on the situation, which is why it is important to monitor and check in regularly with the young person
- notify the school’s Business Manager that the student is a young carer so they can record it in CASES21.
Privacy considerations in recording the young carer status in CASES21
When the student or their parent discloses their carer status, they must be advised that it will be recorded in CASES21 as part of the overall interactions with them. Written consent is not required to add this information into CASES21, however, schools are required to clearly explain to the young person and their families why this information is being recorded and how the information is used, stored and treated — if requested by the young person or their families.
A student’s carer status may change. When a student advises that they are no longer a carer, the young carer flag should be removed from CASES21.
The young carer flag is used to enable schools to support students who have caring responsibilities. Supports may include activities completed by schools, such as developing an Individual Education Plan, establishing a Student Support Group and helping students to access other external supports such as young carer programs. Students may not opt out of having young carer status recorded in CASES21; however, students and family members may choose not to participate in activities and services that are supports for young carers.
Responding to identification
School staff members who become aware that a student is a young carer, can take the following steps:
- identify a staff member that the young person feels comfortable having a more in-depth follow up discussion with
- initiate a more in-depth conversation with the young person and or their family (if appropriate) in a safe and confidential place
- record the status of the student as a young carer in CASES21 and explain to the student, in an age appropriate way, that young carer status will be noted on their records to ensure they get all the supports they need
It is important to note that a young person having caring responsibilities does not automatically mean that there are child protection concerns. Many young carers do not have such concerns and involving Child Protection where there are no concerns is potentially traumatising. However, if school staff have any concerns relating to child safety they must follow the guidance on .
Young carers are a diverse group, and it is important to ensure that young carers and the person being cared for have their views, best interests and cultural identity taken into account. For example, if the young person is Aboriginal and or Torres Strait Islander, they may have a different understanding of family and family roles that may influence the way they talk about their caring responsibilities.
Supporting young carers in your school
There are a range of supports, adjustments and options that can be utilised to ensure that young carers engage in and remain engaged in education, as well as to support their social and emotional wellbeing.
Student support groups
School principals should establish a student support group (SSG) for students that have caring responsibilities where it is considered that this will support their needs. Information and guidance on establishing SSGs is available at: .
Individual education plan
Schools should develop an individual education plan (IEP)) for students that have caring responsibilities where this will support their learning. The purpose of an IEP is to describe a set of strategies to address the particular educational needs of the young carer. Advice on developing IEPs is available at: .
Monitoring and updating carer status
School staff who are aware of a student that is a young carer are encouraged to implement processes to regularly check in with the student to monitor their wellbeing, engagement in education and any changes to their circumstances or situation.
The young person’s caring role may change from time to time and they may be an episodic carer. For example, they were considered to have light caring responsibilities but are now considered to have very heavy caring responsibilities. In this case, it is best practice for schools to update this information in CASES21. This should prompt a review of the supports as well as a prompt to inform relevant support staff such as members of the SSG if established.
Student Support Services
Student Support Services (SSS) are department area based staff that comprise of professionals including psychologists, speech pathologists and social workers. They work as part of an integrated health and wellbeing team within networks of schools, focusing on providing group-based and individual support, workforce capacity building and the provision of specialised services.
Headspace counselling for secondary students
Mental health toolkit
The Mental Health Toolkit provides expert guidance and resources on mental health promotion and support aimed at schools and school communities, health and wellbeing workforces and mental health practitioners. Further information is available here: .
Peer support groups
Young carers often feel different or isolated from their peers, have limited opportunities for socialisation, and can experience bullying. Peer support groups can be an effective method to enable young cares to get together to socialise, have a break, share experiences and seek the advice of other young people who have caring responsibilities.
Peer support groups are generally established by a staff member in school who has a good understand and appreciation of the role of young carers. They are run on a regular basis (for example, every fortnight) at a time that is suitable for the group members. Young carers should be encouraged to take ownership of the groups and decide what they want to use the meetings for.
Reviewed 04 November 2020