People Like Us

Written by Judith Johnson / Produced by Theatre of Debate

Facilitator Notes

Description

In 2016, Surrey Young Carers commissioned Theatre of Debate to produce ‘People Like Us’, a play and a debate about the lives of young Carers living in the UK.

‘People Like Us’ tells the story of two young carers Gemma (16) and Tyler (16 ). This fast moving and contemporary drama with humour was written by Judith Johnson whose previous TOD plays include ‘People are Messy’ ‘Starfish’, ‘Nobody lives For Ever’ and ‘Every Breath’.

The live play and debate toured to fifteen Secondary schools in Surrey. As a result of the performances and debates in schools many students were able to self identify themselves as young carers for the first time and the participating schools used the opportunity to promote or launch their own Young Carers policy for their school. Before the pilot tour of the live production, SYC estimated that there were at least two young carers in every class in Surrey Secondary schools. After the pilot tour, SYC revised their estimate to an average of up to five young carers in every class.

Details

Focus: What is a young carer, Living with a long term illness, the impact of long term illnesses on families, health and well being

Audience: Young people (14 plus) and adults

Length: 59 minutes

Full Film: Available through Theatre of Debate, with subtitles by Stagetext

Resources: Available for teachers and students, science communicators and health workers

Using the Resources

‘People like us’ Digital offers you a selection of materials that you can use to introduce the film and to provoke further discussion and learning after you have screened the film.

Prescreening

  • Essential Information for teachers about young carers
  • The trailer for the film (1.46 minutes)
  • A set of questions from the original live performance that can be used to introduce the screening

Postscreening

  • The Debate – A set of questions from the original live debate that can be used after the screening
  • A workshop for one class that can be used after the screening
  • Film Clips (2 minutes each) from ‘People Like Us’ selected to stimulate discussion around the issues in the film
  • A PDF of all the Film clips to print out
  • The soundtrack of Tyler Dodd’s Poem Set to his brother Zeb’s soundtrack

Suggestions

How you use the film and resources is up to you, here are our suggestions:

  • Screen the film, to a whole year group and follow up either with the whole year group or with individual classes.
  • Screen the film to a class and either follow up the screening with our suggested follow up activities or your own, immediately after the screening or within two weeks. Use the two minute film extracts or the trailer to refresh your students
  • Screen the film in three episodes over three lessons, each episode lasts approx 20 minutes
  • If you don’t want to screen the complete film , create a lesson or a series of lesson using the two minute film extracts and the trailer

Learning Objectives

At the same time as raising awareness, creating empathy and understanding, ‘People Like Us’ supports the achievement of attainment targets for Key Stage 3 and 4 across Citizenship, English and Drama, whilst promoting Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural development and the following learning objectives:

  • To understand what a young carer is.
  • To understand how to identify any young carers that may have not yet been identified.
  • To understand the social, physical and emotional responsibilities a young person can have.
  • To be able to participate in a debate around the impact of being a Young Carer, on teachers, young people and families.
  • DRAMA LEARNING OBJECTIVE: To understand the role theatre can play in educating and informing audiences.

Synopsis

GEMMA is a 16 year old high achieving GCSE student. She usually does extremely well at school but unfortunately, since her Mum was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, she has found that she has less and less time to give to her studies because she has to help her Mum (ZOE) a lot more. ZOE is in her 40s, an artist and now ex teacher (she has had to give up work because of her condition). She finds life much more difficult since her MS has developed and is particularly frustrated that she can’t support and care for GEMMA like she used to. At school, staff haven’t picked up that GEMMA is experiencing difficulties, so she struggles on, but then she meets TYLER in an after-school detention.

TYLER, also 16, has been a Carer for his family since he was young but has only been identified at school in year 8 at age 13. TYLER has struggled at school for years, but is now receiving some support and has been helped a lot by a Young Carers Group (run by a local charity outside of school). TYLER’s brother ZEB, age 18, has Asperger’s. TYLER helps ZEB with anxiety issues and personal organisation skills, as well as helping his Mum (who is in a wheelchair) and his Dad (who has bi-polar). ZEB is a keen fan of Electronic Dance Music and has a following on youTube under the name ZEB the legend. TYLER has begun to write and perform poetry, sometimes to a backing provided by ZEB.

TYLER is known as being a bit of an outsider, so him and top of the class GEMMA do not usually have much to do with each other, but he recognises some signs that GEMMA might be a young carer and decides to take her under his wing. GEMMA offers to help TYLER with his Maths homework, and soon a relationship begins to develop…

Young Carers

A Young Carer is someone aged up to 18 who provides unpaid for care for a family member or friend who has a long-term physical or mental health problem or disability, a life-limiting, illness or a drug or alcohol dependency Definition by Surrey Young Carers.

How many are there?

Figures from the Office for National Statistics suggest 244,000 people under 19 are carers – about 23,000 are under nine. The Children’s Society warns this is likely to be “the tip of the iceberg” and that children’s education and job prospects could be damaged.

Young carers are often hidden from view, at least at first sight. The caring they perform can take subtle, yet significant, forms (such as emotional support) that may even be unacknowledged within the family. Many carers may be unaware that support exists or fear having involvement with such services.

As a result, information on caring roles of young people is rarely volunteered and may even be denied upon enquiry. This can obviously make identifying carers amongst a school population a challenge, and so it is often more helpful to consider the impact upon a young person of living with an ill or disabled relative, rather than focusing upon a ‘carer’ label as such. The effects upon wellbeing and achievement are usually visible to school staff and can be a clearer signifier that support is required than what is or is not spoken about.

What kind of support do they provide?

The type of support that carers provide falls into 3 broad categories:

  • Practical: for example, cooking, cleaning, shopping and money management
  • Personal: for example, lifting, washing, dressing and administering medication
  • Emotional and supervisory: watching over someone and providing emotional support

Around a half of young carers experience problems in their education and achieve lower grades. As stated in their framework, Ofsted inspectors will consider how a school is identifying and supporting these students. Sadly, carers rarely disclose their situations until they can see a clear benefit in doing so, and instead struggle on in silence for far too long. Therefore, schools need to take a proactive approach to identify carers as early as possible – by continually promoting the available support and engaging with families, staff and feeder schools.

What is the impact on their education?

More than two-thirds of young carers feel ‘stressed’ and ‘depressed’ because of their role. With support, being a young carer brings benefits, and many express pride in their role.

Adversity can bring a family closer together. Young people who grow up taking care of a relative can develop life skills that ensure they are resourceful, independent individuals with emotional resilience – the qualities of all healthy adults.

Caring responsibilities can raise a number of barriers to learning for many young people. These barriers can manifest whilst a pupil is in infant school, and can persist into adulthood, restricting opportunities to access further and higher education, and employment.

In a 2013 study, half of young carers reported that their caring role a negative effect on their school work. Young carers leave school with the equivalent of 9 GCSE grades lower than their peers who have no caring role. A 2000 study reported that a half of the carers surveyed had missed school because of their caring role and a quarter had left without any GCSEs. Consistent tracking and support of young carers is required throughout their education ensuring that information on their needs is shared with permission at every point of transition within and between schools and colleges.

What do they need?

Young carers need, RECOGNITION,SUPPORT AND GUIDANCE:

  • RECOGNITION: Staff awareness training and opportunities for students to self-identify
  • GUIDANCE: on further study and career routes, from impartial experts who know the challenges that young carers face
  • SUPPORT: pastoral and practical support, financial support, (i.e. Pupil Premium allocation) to help them access the same opportunities as their peers

Around a half of young carers experience problems in their education and achieve lower grades. As stated in their framework, Ofsted inspectors will consider how a school is identifying and supporting these students. Sadly, carers rarely disclose their situations until they can see a clear benefit in doing so, and instead struggle on in silence for far too long. Therefore, schools need to take a proactive approach to identify carers as early as possible – by continually promoting the available support and engaging with families, staff and feeder schools.

Schools can also inform families in need of help of their entitlement to Care & Support Assessments and Young Carers Needs Assessments from Surrey County Council (requested via the Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub on 0300 470 9100). These can bring in sufficient care services to ‘lighten the load’ on their child at home.

Reading the signs

Are any of your students:

  • Regularly arriving late for school, or missing days?
  • Arriving at school hungry or without a clean uniform?
  • Appearing to be regularly tired?
  • Regularly complaining of aches and pains?
  • Appearing withdrawn, anxious or distracted?
  • Regularly challenging authority?
  • Appearing to be isolated from their peers?
  • Regularly missing homework deadlines?
  • Registered with Children’s Services, where parental health issues are a concern?
  • Looking after disabled siblings enrolled at your school?

Are any of your parents:

  • Having difficulties in responding to communications from school or in attending meetings?
  • Having difficulties in paying for uniform items, equipment, materials or trips?

Six tips for schools

  1. Designate carer leads within the staff and governorship (to lead on the recommendations below)
  2. Publish a young carers’ support policy to staff, students and parents
  3. Run regular training on young carer issues – for staff in teaching, support and front desk roles
  4. Promote the issues facing young carers in assemblies and PSHE lessons – to improve understanding and challenge the stigma
  5. Enable families to disclose disability and health issues on the school’s Enrolment Form
  6. Design and put individual support plans in place, in consultation with parents, students and staff.