Making school nurses ‘carer aware’
The number of children and young people who carry out a caring role in the home is unknown, but data from the 2011 census reveals that almost 250,000 people aged between five and 19 were caring for parents, siblings and others in England and Wales
The number of children and young people who carry out a caring role in the home is unknown, but data from the 2011 census reveals that almost 250,000 people aged between five and 19 were caring for parents, siblings and others in England and Wales.
In 2014, the Department of Health, the School and Public Health Nurses Association, Queen’s Nursing Institute (QNI) and the RCN launched a programme to identify and support the wellbeing of young carers in England through integrated working between school nurses and other public health nurses.
The scheme, which is now under the remit of Public Health England (PHE), was recognised for its success in raising the profile of this hidden workforce at the Academy of NHS Fabulous Stuff’s inaugural awards.
It trains school nurses to be ‘carer aware’ and encourages them to pledge their support to the needs of this vulnerable group in their communities.
PHE lead nurse for children, young people and families Wendy Nicholson says many carers do not speak up for fear of being removed from their family homes or because professionals have failed to acknowledge their role.
‘We recognised the health and wellbeing of young carers could be improved, particularly as the number of young carers is increasing year-on-year, and that school nursing teams could have a vital role to play,’ Ms Nicholson says.
Skills in identification
‘We want school nurses to be skilled at identifying young carers, who may go to see them about something unrelated, by asking the right questions without probing or without it being uncomfortable for the nurse or young person.’
School nurses are also trained to signpost young carers to other services, such as housing, financial and mental health, and provide them with practical information about caring.
From the outset young carers have been involved in shaping the initiative, even designing the artwork for a badge that the growing number of school nurse champions wear. Ms Nicholson says that there are now more than 400 champions who have made pledges, ranging from designing information about young carers for schools to whole-service redesign.
Guidance has also been launched for practitioners and commissioners, and the QNI and the RCN have developed online learning resources for school nurses.
‘It’s a sustainable, low-cost but big-impact programme, making evidence-based tools, training and resources available to help school nurses work smarter,’ Ms Nicholson says. ‘We are proud of what is being achieved.’