Page last updated at 02:44 GMT, Monday, 17 May 2010 03:44 UK

Young carers 'bullied at school'

By Elaine Okyere
BBC News

Young carers
The Princess Royal Trust for Carers runs centres which support carers

Two-thirds of young carers are bullied at school, according to a new study.

A quarter of young people, who care for a sick or disabled family member, also admitted that they suffered from stress.

The Princess Royal Trust for Carers, which provides support for carers, questioned 700 young people between the ages of six and 18.

Danni Manzi, from the charity, said that young carers "didn't have the support they needed".

'Unrecognised problems'

The 2001 census suggests there are about 175,000 carers under the age of 18 in the UK, but experts believe the number could be higher.

In answer to the charity's questionaire, 39% of young carers admitted that they had not told any teachers at their school of their responsibilities, while others said they suffered from depression and tiredness.

The majority of those young carers who did tell their teachers said they did not feel supported.

Ms Manzi said the results of the survey were unsurprising.

"We knew anecdotally that young carers were suffering in regard to education and schools and didn't have the support that they needed," she said.

Resource pack

The charity hopes more schools will take notice of vulnerable pupils.

"Some teachers focus on the kids that are causing them the most problems, and the ones that are managing are going unrecognised," she added.

"By the time a teacher picks up the fact there is a problem it can be too late."

By the time a teacher picks up the fact there is a problem it can be too late
Danni Manzi, from The Princess Royal Trust for Carers

She revealed that some young people were scared of the stigma attached to being a young carer, and as a result they feared telling their teachers about their role.

An online resource pack is being launched by The Princess Royal Trust for Carers and The Children's Society to provide advice on how teachers can support young carers.

Suggestions include being more flexible with deadlines and also providing access to a phone so they can contact home.

Difficult friendships

However Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said the study showed carers needed more support from children's services.

"The results of this survey are surprising, but point to a far greater issue of how different family support services could better support young carers," she said.

"Ultimately it is a childrens' services issue. The school should play a role in identifying cases and referring young carers on so that they get the right support."

Kama Digance
Eight-year-old Kama Digance helps care for her mother Lorraine

Lorraine Digance, from Surrey, has chronic fatigue syndrome or ME, as well as depression and Fibromyalgia, which leaves sufferers with widespread muscle pain.

Without the help of her eight-year-old daughter Kama, she would struggle to complete everyday tasks.

Kama also helps care for her brother who has Asperger's syndrome.

However the reponsibilty of helping her mother does take its toll.

"If there's something going on at school they won't want to tell me in case I worry," says the mother-of-two.

"It does make it more difficult for friendships because of my ill health and some of the bullying my son has suffered was down to being a young carer."

The Digance family gets support from a young carers group in Sutton, where they live, as well as help from an adult carer, their school and other family members.

"It is not doom and gloom all the time," she added.

"With the help of the young carers centre, family and friends they do have fun. They need to have the opportunity to be kids."

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