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Young Carers

Volume 565: debated on Monday 24 June 2013

The Department has developed an online training module for school staff. It is designed to raise awareness about young carers, including awareness of the potential impact that their caring responsibilities can have on their school attendance and attainment. Importantly, the Department of Health has recently started training school nurses to be champions for young carers, and to help head teachers and governors to decide how best to support them at school.

There are about 300 young carers in my constituency. As my hon. Friend recognised in his answer, young carers often reflect many of the best values, but their education suffers as a result of their caring duties. Will my hon. Friend write to me saying what he considers to be the best scheme to support them, and what impediments there are to the spreading of such measures, given that even neighbouring districts such as Fenland and Huntingdon take such different approaches?

I praise my hon. Friend for the work that he is doing in his constituency. He has led by example in writing to all local secondary school heads to remind them of the support that young carers need, and to raise their awareness of what is available.

As my hon. Friend has acknowledged, there is a wealth of good practice out there. We recently awarded a £1.2 million contract to the Children’s Society and the Carers Trust to work directly with local services, including schools, and help them to improve support for young carers. However, I am happy to write to my hon. Friend explaining what we are doing over and above that, and what more we can do collectively—at both national and local levels—to improve support for young carers in schools.

The Minister knows that many of us on both sides of this House care very deeply about the hundreds of thousands of young carers in this country and that they should get the support they need to fulfil their potential. He just cited the support role school nurses can play for young carers, but he must know from the parliamentary questions I have asked that the number of school nurses across the country is tiny—indeed, I think one answer stated I had one in the whole of Sunderland. If this is the solution, he might want to look at that. We welcome the assurances the Minister gave at the Report stage of the Children and Families Bill, but as it is due to be debated in the other place next week, will he give us and our noble colleagues a guarantee that he will make this work an immediate priority, so the Bill will make the changes we want to see for these young people, as the care services Minister, the hon. Member for North Norfolk (Norman Lamb), promised last year.

As ever, may I thank the hon. Lady for the tone she strikes with her question? We are at one in wanting to improve the support young carers receive. As she knows, I have met the Minister for care and support to agree some key principles for work in this area and to look at how we can use both the Care Bill and the Children and Families Bill to bring about a closer connection between adult and young carers, so there is a whole-family approach to the support they receive. We will use the stages through the other place to try to make that approach much clearer.