Teachers should identify and support young carers in school to help protect their mental health, the Carers Trust said today.
The call comes as a new survey from the charity, commissioned to mark Young Carers Awareness Day, shows that more than one-third of young carers aged 11 to 18 experience problems with their mental wellbeing.
The Carers Trust is now calling for schools in England to adopt its step-by-step guide to supporting young carers.
The guide gives schools information on how to ensure that no young carer slips through the net by ensuring that staff roles are clear, giving young carers a voice, and setting up processes to work with other agencies .
In the Carers Trust survey, carried out by YouGov, 37 per cent of young carers said they felt stressed because of caring for someone, 23 per cent said they felt their caring role had stopped them making friends on at least one occasion and fewer than half (44 per cent) said they felt they got enough help with their emotions and feelings.
As well as asking schools to do more to identify and support young carers, the trust is also calling for mandatory training for health and social care professionals in identifying young carers and for agencies to receive the funding they need to identify and support young carers.
Giles Meyer, chief executive of the Carers Trust, said: “Right across Britain today hundreds of thousands of young people are having to care for family members with complex needs.
Young carers 'at risk of mental health problems'
"These problems, which many adults would struggle to deal with, range from disability and terminal illness to mental health problems, alcoholism and substance misuse.
“It’s hardly surprising, therefore, that so many of the young carers we speak to are crying out for help and support to ease the stress and worry they experience as a result of caring for someone.
"They know that, left unnoticed or ignored, these negative feelings can quickly escalate into poor mental health.”
Anntoinette Bramble, chair of the Local Government Association’s children and young people board, said: "Good relationships between councils, schools, the NHS and other organisations are crucial to making sure that children are referred as quickly as possible and get the support they need to help them live their lives to the fullest.”
There were an estimated 166,363 young carers in England, according to the 2011 national census, although other surveys have estimated that as many as 800,000 (22 per cent) of secondary schoo children may be involved in caring for ill or disabled adults at home.
A government spokesperson said: “Young carers make an invaluable contribution to looking after their loved ones. We changed the law to improve how we identify and support them and their families, and we continue to work with local authorities, schools and voluntary partners to this end.
“Young carers should receive mental health support if they need it and, as part of the NHS Long Term Plan, we have committed to increasing the funding for children and young people’s mental health services to improve support and give 345,000 more children and young people access to NHS-funded mental health services and support in schools and colleges.”