A YORK charity is working with schools across the city to help them identify and support the hundreds of local children who care for someone at home.

Charity York Carers Centre, based in Priory Street, is working with local schools and marked Young Carer Awareness Day on Thursday, which had the theme ‘Count Me In’ this year.

The Count Me In campaign is calling on education providers to do more to proactively identify young carers and to ensure that they receive the support they deserve. York Carers Centre has sent ‘Count Me In’ campaign packs out to all schools in York to raise awareness of the challenges young carers face.

The charity said that every day, throughout York, hundreds of children help to care for someone in their family, or a friend, who is ill, disabled or misuses drugs or alcohol and without support their caring role can be a struggle.

Chief executive of York Carers Centre, Carole Zagrovic, said: “The role of a young carer often goes unnoticed.

“Their caring role may affect their ability to attend and do well at school so it is important that schools can identify and support young carers enabling them to thrive and grow as children.

“Evidence suggests that inappropriate caring responsibilities, worry and stress can lead to early mental ill health and problems affecting young carers through to adulthood.”

Recent research shows that one in five secondary school children may be a young carer and for many their role begins at a much younger age. Schools, however, can provide a lifeline for children and young people by putting them in touch with support.

Millthorpe School works closely with York Carers Centre and marked Young Carer Awareness Day with a non-uniform fundraiser and young carer assembly. Additionally the school is working towards achieving the gold level Young Carers in Schools Award, which recognises good practice in supporting this vulnerable group of pupils.

Sophie Johnson, young carer lead at Millthorpe, said: “Being a young person is difficult enough, without having the additional responsibilities of being a young carer.

“As a school, it is important to recognise this role so students have the opportunity to be honest about any extra pressures they face outside of school, as well as being able to celebrate the role they play within their family.

“Identifying a young carer from an early age allows staff to put in place alternative arrangements when required and work together with young people and their families to ensure they have an equal opportunity to make a success of their education.”

York Central MP Rachael Maskell added: “The role of a young carer is extremely challenging. They take on a huge amount of responsibility which can often be very difficult both physically and emotionally.

“These incredible young people not only provide essential care to their loved ones but must also juggle this with their school work, employment and social commitments.

“That is why I support the Count Me In campaign and am calling on the Government to fully engage and recognise the vital role of our young carers by collecting and publishing information about their attendance, school achievement and well-being.

“Huge steps need to be taken to make sure our young carers are fully supported so that they can achieve their potential. Whenever possible, if care provision from statutory services can be available it should be provided to ensure that young carers do not miss out on their childhood.

“From improvements to mental health services and increased school provision, through to flexible education support, I will continue to do everything I can through my work in Parliament to ensure these demands are met.”

Local support is available for young carers from York Carers Centre, who offer a range of group activities and one to one support to those aged from five to 18. They also work closely with several of York’s primary and secondary schools offering lunch time carer drop-in sessions, and support for schools wishing to achieve the Young Carers in Schools Award. The charity welcomes more schools to get in touch.

For information on how to access young carer support, and services for carers of any age in York visit www.yorkcarerscentre.co.uk or call 01904 715 490.