Shocking statistics released to mark Young Carers Action Day today reveal that one in three young carers in Surrey struggle to balance caregiving with education.

Caring can massively affect young people’s life opportunities and plans – impacting on whether they can get on at school, go to university, or get a job or an apprenticeship.

And the theme of this year’s Young Carers Action Day is Fair Futures for Young Carers, emphasising the impact of caregiving on education and career prospects.

Charity Action for Carers, which supports more than 2,300 of Surrey’s estimated 14,000 young carers, believes changes in policy, practice and investments are needed to give young carers the support and flexibility they need to thrive.

And underlining the issue, the charity has shared the stories of three young carers and their struggles to balance caring with school work.

What Surrey young carers say...

Lauren, juggling education and caring, said: “What tutors don’t understand is how caring affects your studies; sometimes I couldn’t make it to college for 9am as I had to help James out in the morning, or I couldn’t hand an assignment in on time, or complete homework because caring for my brother was more important.

“Fortunately, I found my way to one of the college mentors. If I had to speak to tutors, I would ask him to email them for me. He arranged extra time and got me working in long lunch breaks because there was no way I could work at home.”

Sriya is in her late teens and cares for her grandparents. She said: “I faced some trouble when it came to balancing schoolwork with my home life. In Indian culture, it’s expected that younger members of the family should care for the elderly; this meant that my caring role was almost an obligatory part of my life and my family struggled to see how it would make completing homework any harder.

“I had trouble managing this balance for a while until I found out about Surrey Young Carers (part of Action for Carers Surrey) who were able to give me support, I needed to care for my grandparents and complete my work.”

Rhianna, caring for her mum since the age of six, said: “Being an only child and caring for a parent is a heavy load and I wish there was greater understanding of what life is like. There can be all different levels of carer and it can affect people differently too. I remember when I was at school thinking, “Really, how am I going to do anything? I can’t even revise!

“But it all worked out, I ended up graduating university with a 1st class honours degree. I would say I’ve developed some good skills from being a carer and that it really can be a positive thing.”

To mark Young Carers Action Day, Action for Carers is also collaborating with local authorities, holding events, and reaching out to hospitals to raise awareness.

This includes a novel session being recorded with Surrey Hills Radio with five older young carers aged 16 to 17 sharing their experiences of making their future choices with five young carers, aged 12 to 13; a group of young carers meeting the mayor at Reigate Town Hall; and a fun event at Farnham Maltings.

Action for Carers is also working with Surrey County Council, local councils and the NHS to reach more professionals to help their awareness and understanding, including a learning session with cartoonist James Parsons reflecting on what Fair Futures means, working with one of our staff who was a young carer himself.

Its staff will also be seen in many Surrey hospitals during the week – reaching out to staff and families to highlight its support.