Employers and teachers should recognise the needs of carers

11th June 2013

Continuing a series of guest blogs for National Carers Week, young adult carer, Matt, tells us what he thinks employers and schools can do to better support people with caring responsibilities.

As an 18 year old, I’ve been a carer for my younger brother since a young age. He’s now 16, so has been a huge part of my life for a long time. Hence, I’ve grown up with it, and it’s made me who I am today. I feel that being a carer has probably shaped my personality – without this experience, I would have been a very different person.

It’s the same with my mother, who passed away when I was very young. There is nothing I can do about either of these situations, I just have to adapt to them and deal with them as best as I can. Sure, there will be tears along the way, but making them both proud of me is my biggest aim. I do not have any ‘regrets’, as such, but just use my past as motivation to do well for my family, and do what my mother would have been proud of me for.

I enjoy caring for my brother – it’s not easy, but I like being a helping hand and I feel the experiences will benefit me in life greatly. It’s not something all of my friends are familiar with. My closest ones do know, and they don’t treat me any differently. I don’t choose not to tell people because I’m afraid of their reaction or what they’d think of me, I have learnt that the ones who accept you for who you are and try their best to understand your situation are the ‘real friends’. However, I do feel some people’s attitude towards carers needs to change. I’ve been one of the lucky ones, but when I hear of employers telling staff, who are carers to “keep their private lives out of the workplace”, I feel disgusted.

Employers should know about their employees’ needs and commitments, and that includes caring. Working carers will have different needs to other staff, that may include needing to leave early or at short notice. Employers should then be able to respect this and help the situation. I feel that carers should be able to put this on application forms, but only if they feel the need to. It is important their needs are respected and their caring role put among the priorities. It is an employer’s duty to ensure the wellbeing of their staff at work, and this is a fundamental part of that duty of care.

I feel schools could benefit from something similar. I have, again, been one of the lucky ones. Whenever a teacher or member of staff knew about my caring role, they had always been very supportive and encouraging. However, this is not always the case. Teachers, of all people, should conduct themselves in a certain manner, and that includes being respectful and setting an example.

They need to know that one cannot simply “forget” about their caring role whilst at school. It is a 24/7 responsibility. Hence, it would be useful if staff were able to know about who is a carer within the school, but the information must remain confidential. Then, they are able to deal with and prepare for the individual in the correct way. Just because someone is a carer, it doesn’t mean their school work should be affected, and it is a teacher’s role to help them with this. As I have stated, I have experienced nothing but support, respect and admiration from teachers, and I feel this should be the case for every single young adult carer.