Young carer in school, college or work

In school or college, there is lots of help and support to make sure young people do not go through everything alone. As a young carer, you have important rights that protect you at work.

If you are in school or college

As a young carer, you may find going to school or college a welcome relief. It means that you can see friends and forget about your problems for a few hours. Or you may find that it can be worrying.

Some of the things you may be worried about are:

  • getting to school on time
  • finding it difficult to concentrate
  • completing homework
  • managing your studies as well as your caring responsibilities
  • being away from the person you care for.

There is no right or wrong way to feel. Not everyone has the same experience. But telling your school that you are a young carer makes it much easier to get practical and emotional support.

There will be someone at school who can make sure you do not have to go through everything alone. You can ask your teacher if there is a young carers’ lead in your school to help support your mental health.

Talking to your teachers

You may not want to tell your teachers that you are caring for someone with cancer. But if school staff know what is happening, they may be able to help you. They are likely to be more understanding if you are late for school or struggle to keep up with homework.

If you find it hard to talk about your home life, here are some tips that may help.

5 practical tips for young carers

  1. It is a good idea to tell at least one person at school that you are a young carer. You could approach a teacher or member of staff that you like and trust.
  2. You could say something like: ‘Please can I speak with you in private after class? I would like to talk to you about what is happening at home and how this may affect my schoolwork.’
  3. You could show your teacher a list or diary of all the jobs you do around the house.
  4. If you do not feel comfortable talking to your teacher, ask a family member to contact them for you. Perhaps they could write a letter to the school.
  5. Young carers’ services can also speak to your school for you. The Children’s Society can help you find a service near you.

How your school can support you

Teachers are there to help you reach your full potential, whatever challenges you face. If you tell them about your situation at home, they may be able to:

  • let you phone the person you are caring for during breaks or lunchtimes
  • help you with homework or deadlines if you are struggling
  • organise help for your family to travel to parents’ evenings if it is hard for them to leave the house
  • arrange for you to talk about how you feel with a school counsellor.

In England and Wales, there is a free programme called Young Carers in Schools. It is run jointly by Carers Trust and The Children’s Society. This programme can help your school put the right support in place for you and other young carers.

There is lots of information available to help schools support young carers:

Managing homework

As a young carer, you may not have as much time to do your homework as others in your class. After school, you may be cooking meals or doing housework, or you may not feel able to study. Try to take one day at a time.

If you find it hard to concentrate at home, think about whether there is another place that you can do your homework. This could be at the house of another family member or friend, or at a school or homework club. Some young carers’ projects also run homework clubs.

If you are worried about not getting your homework done, you can ask a young carer worker or family member to talk to your school. The school may be able to give you a bit less homework, or more time to do it.

These websites may help you with your homework, coursework or revision for exams:

  • BBC Bitesize – offers free videos, step-by-step guides, activities and quizzes to support your learning and exam preparation. Also available as an app.
  • Grid Club – has a news section and a library. It offers help with homework, puzzles and quizzes.
  • Homework Elephant – has over 5,000 resources to help you with your homework projects.

Missing school

Balancing caring and going to school can be hard. Sometimes you may feel that you need to take a day off to look after the person with cancer. There may be days when you struggle to get to school on time. If this happens, speak to a teacher or someone who works at your school as soon as you can. They may be able to help you get more support at home, so you can concentrate on your studies.

A GP, nurse, social worker or young carer worker can also help you get support for yourself and your family.

If you are being bullied

Bullies often pick on people who are different to them. If you are a young carer, you may find that you are the target of bullying. The bullies probably do not understand what your life is like outside of school.

Bullying can include being:

  • called unkind names
  • deliberately left out of activities or friendship groups
  • threatened
  • hit, kicked or punched.

If you are being bullied because of your situation at home, it is natural to feel upset and scared. But do not blame yourself. Bullying is unacceptable and should not be allowed to continue. There are ways to deal with the problem.

It is important to tell an adult what is happening. Try talking to a teacher or school counsellor. Perhaps your school could arrange to teach a lesson or hold an assembly about cancer. This may help your classmates and teachers understand more about your situation.

Young carers’ services can offer support. You may be able to talk to other young carers who have been bullied. You can also call Childline free on 0800 1111 to have a confidential chat with a trained counsellor. They may be able to help you deal with the bullying.

You could tell your teachers about the website Here they can download a free bullying awareness classroom resource, created by Kidscape and Carers Trust. This shows students the challenges that young carers face.

If you work

If you have a job, it can be hard to balance working and caring. But work can be a chance to socialise, improve your confidence and reduce money worries.

You may be thinking about whether to tell your employer that you look after someone with cancer. As a young carer, you have important rights that protect you at work.

Carers Trust has produced a free guide called Getting into work: A guide for young adult carers in England. It includes advice on how to find a job, speak to your employer about being a carer and manage at work.

Looking for a new job

As a young carer, you are probably learning lots of practical, organisational and communication skills. These skills are likely to be valuable to employers when you apply for a new job. You could highlight this experience on your CV and application forms.

At an interview, you could give examples of skills that you have used in your caring role. For example, you may be asked to describe a situation where you have managed your time well. There is also likely to be a chance for you to ask questions. It is a good idea to find out if, for example, the employer offers flexible (different) working arrangements.

You can get help looking for a new job from your local Jobcentre Plus (in England, Scotland and Wales), the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) or Jobs and Benefits office (in Northern Ireland).

Talking to your manager

If you are working, even if just part-time, it is your choice whether to tell your manager that you are caring for someone with cancer.

You may choose not to tell anyone at work that you are a young carer. For some people, having a part-time job is a good chance to get out of the house and do something for themselves. It means having a place where you do not have to think or talk about cancer.

But if you tell your manager about your situation, they may be able to give you more support. Your manager is likely to be more understanding if you need to miss work or are late. They may be able to give you time off or arrange a more flexible work pattern.

Here are practical tips for talking to your manager about being a young carer.

6 practical tips for young carers

  1. Try to arrange a meeting with your manager. You could say something like: ‘Please can we arrange a time to have a private conversation? I would like to talk to you about my caring responsibilities at home.’
  2. It is useful to make a list of the main things to talk about and questions to ask at the meeting. To get help with this, call our Work Support Service free on 0808 808 00 00.
  3. If you feel nervous, take someone with you to the meeting for support. It is best to meet in a quiet place where you will not be interrupted. You can remind your manager to keep everything you tell them confidential.
  4. At the meeting, it is a good idea to make notes and keep a record of them. You can explain briefly that you look after a family member and what you do to help. You do not have to say that the person has cancer, but you can if you feel comfortable.
  5. Try to explain how being a young carer may affect your work. For example, you may sometimes have to take time off at short notice. You and your manager can then talk about possible solutions, such as working at home sometimes.
  6. Ask your manager what leave (time off) you can take and what other support is available in your situation. Suggest having regular catch-up meetings. You can then review how any changes are working and whether you are getting enough support.

Your rights at work

You have rights at work that may make it easier to keep working while you are a young carer. If you have any questions about your rights, call our Work Support Service free on 0808 808 00 00.

Protection from discrimination

You may be worried that you will lose your job if you tell your manager that you are a young carer. But it is against the law for your employer to treat you unfairly because you look after someone who has cancer. That would be discrimination. If you think you are experiencing discrimination, you can contact Citizens Advice for help.

Right to ask for flexible working

If you have worked for your employer for at least 26 weeks, you can ask them for a more flexible work pattern. This could mean having different start or finish times, working from home sometimes or doing fewer hours. Your employer can refuse your request if it is not in the best interests of the business.

If you want to ask for flexible working, there is a procedure that you and your employer must follow. It may be possible to agree a temporary or small change informally.

Time off in an emergency

Employees can take reasonable time off to deal with an emergency involving someone they care for. This time off is usually unpaid, but you can check your employment contract or company policy.

About our information

  • Reviewers

    This information has been written, revised and edited by Macmillan Cancer Support’s Cancer Information Development team. It has been reviewed by expert medical and health professionals and people living with cancer. It has been approved by Chief Medical Editor, Professor Tim Iveson, Consultant Medical Oncologist.

    Our cancer information has been awarded the PIF TICK. Created by the Patient Information Forum, this quality mark shows we meet PIF’s 10 criteria for trustworthy health information.

Date reviewed

Reviewed: 01 January 2021
Next review: 01 January 2024

This content is currently being reviewed. New information will be coming soon.

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