Educational settings in Northern Ireland urged to help identify and support young carers

Tuesday 06 February 2024
Action for Children

The Department of Education has partnered with Action for Children Northern Ireland to distribute a poster designed by Young Carers to all educational settings in Northern Ireland

The initiative comes in response to a campaign started by a group of Young Carers who wanted to create more awareness within schools of what being in a caring role is like and the impact it can have on their educational and social experiences.

Aaron, Joel and Kesiah with the Young Carers poster

Aaron, Joel and Kesiah holding the poster at the launch event

The poster was designed by three siblings: Aaron (13), Joel (10) and Kesiah (9).

These young carers care for their older brother, Christian (14).

It was launched at an event on January 29 at Action for Children’s Head Office, Loughshore House, alongside colleagues from Barnardo’s NI and the Department of Education.

What is a young carer?

Young carers are defined as children and young people who have a substantive caring role for a member of their family, whether that be another child, young person or an adult, and whose health or development is affected due to their caring role. Many of these young carers are not visible in school and it can therefore be difficult for the school community to offer them appropriate support.

There are currently over 17,500 unpaid carers aged under 25 in Northern Ireland that we know of.

This figure makes up roughly 8% of Northern Ireland’s carer population and includes more than 2,500 carers aged under 15, and 550 carers under the age of 10 years old [1].

Surveying young carers across the Belfast, South and South-Eastern Trusts, Action for Children found that less than one in six (16%) of young people who take on a caring role feel that their schools support them [2]. Many of them feel that some teachers do not understand what a young carer does each day or how it impacts their ability to learn.

For most children, getting into school is a case of rolling out of bed and hoping to grab a slice of toast on the way out the door, but for a young carer their day often starts hours before the school bell rings.

But a young carer may take on an average of 25 hours of unpaid work per week to support their family through various duties and tasks that keep a household running. They often forgo extra-curricular activities, struggle to find time to do homework and carry worries and concerns many other children may not need to manage.

Download the school poster

How Action for Children has helped

Aisling Reynolds, Services Manager for Action for Children Young Carers, has taken the lead in helping schools better understand and support the role of young carers.

It’s evident that a school’s awareness and level of support for a young carer can make a huge difference to not only their experience in education, but their confidence, self-esteem and ability to progress further.


“By launching this school poster, our hope is that young carers can recognise their caring role and see that there is support in the community for them. Educators can also access and receive information on how to support young carers in their classrooms, enhancing the experience of young people with caring responsibilities in schools across Northern Ireland.”

Welcoming the launch, Dr Mark Browne, Permanent Secretary for the Department of Education, said: “The challenges of balancing school with the demands of providing physical care, personal care and emotional support to family members on a daily basis cannot be underestimated.

“I hope that by providing this Young Carers in Education Digital Awareness Pack to educational settings and highlighting this issue, we can help to facilitate a better understanding around the role of young carers, the challenges they face and support available.”

Chloe, a Young Carer previously supported by Action for Children while still at school attended Monday’s launch. She was part of the original group that started the campaign and said:

If this poster was in school when I was in school, it would’ve made a difference for me.


Eileen Maguire, Manager of Barnardo’s NI Young Carers service said: “Young people with caring responsibilities have all the challenges of being young, with all the responsibilities of being an adult, and they're often left to face these alone.”

“The young carers we work with at Barnardo’s NI are an incredible bunch of people and I am reminded daily of their resilience and compassion. By getting this information into schools, we hope it will help identify more young carers who need support.”



Arron Williamson, Action for Children, 07718 244 125 / [email protected]

Out of hours: 020 3124 0661 / [email protected]


The poster and images from the event can be downloaded here.

[1] NI Statistics and Research Agency (2023). Census 2021: Provision of unpaid care by broad age bands

[2] Young_Carers_in_Education_Report_2023.pdf (

About Action for Children

Action for Children protects and supports vulnerable children and young people by providing practical and emotional care and support, ensuring their voices are heard and campaigning to bring lasting improvements to their lives. With 426 services across the UK, in schools and online, in 2022/23 we helped 765,905 children, young people and families.

About Barnardo’s Young Carers Service

Barnardo’s Young Carers Service provides practical and emotional support for young carers in the Northern area. The service works with schools, health and social care trusts and voluntary/ community organisations to raise awareness of young carers, their situation and to reach young people who need the service. The service offers: peer support, personal development programmes, individual support, advocacy, fun/social activities, advice and a safe environment. Find out more here or get in touch on 02879631344 / 07526916070 / [email protected].