Transcript of Interview with Matthew Pantelis, 5AA Radio
Topic: Young carers
MATTHEW PANTELIS : …when you look at the statistics, that some 300,000 people aged 25 years or under spend time, every day, caring for a parent, family member or friend with a disability. And one of our federal MPs here in Adelaide is calling for schools particularly, teachers, to be aware of carers who might be in their classroom. It’s just amazing that young people are in that position.
Amanda Rishworth is Parliamentary secretary for disability and carers, and also the member locally for Kingston. Good afternoon Amanda.
AMANDA RISHWORTH: Good afternoon Matthew.
MATTHEW PANTELIS : So obviously a big issue, it affects a lot of people across the place.
AMANDA RISHWORTH: Look it is a very very big issue, and the statistics tell us, as you mentioned, there’s about 380,000 young carers and 150,000 of them are actually under the age of 18. So we’re talking about some very young children, and also young adults are actually having caring responsibilities.
And they’re the statistics we know about, of course, there would be so many other young people that are doing that role that we may not be aware of.
MATTHEW PANTELIS : Gee that’s amazing. Do you think schools are aware, teachers?
AMANDA RISHWORTH: Well look one of the things that we launched today was actually some online tools to help teachers become better aware. Because some of the stories I’ve heard as part of a young carer’s event today is that if teachers are able to identify who these young carers are, because they’re not – they won’t always come up and put their hand up, and say look, I’m a young carer I need help.
So what we actually need is for teachers and principals and even peers at school to be aware that they actually might have some young carers in their school. And to actually say look, do you need some support, and be proactive about it.
MATTHEW PANTELIS : What response have young people been telling you they get when they are in that position and looking for support?
AMANDA RISHWORTH: Well most young people have actually said they are – won’t actually come out and say it. They’re embarrassed, they feel isolated. So what young people told me this morning is what made a real difference for them is if the teacher or classmate came up to them and said look, we can see you’re struggling, but we want to, you know, what’s going on at home, we want to help you.
And so just to be aware that the statistics suggest with those numbers that two to three young people in each classroom in Australia could be carers. So that’s a very high statistic. So it’s likely in the classrooms out there that there are carers in most classrooms around Australia.
MATTHEW PANTELIS : Yeah. I imagine that would take a lot of the pressure of studying for year 11, year 12 particularly if we’re talking about, you know, kids more mature, responsibly looking after somebody at that age. That would take them right away from their studies, wouldn’t it?
AMANDA RISHWORTH: Well look it does take them away from their studies. And things that we’ve heard that young carers do is things like financial budgeting, it’s personal care, it’s going shopping, it’s cooking.
So of course absentee is a big issue for these young carers, feeling like they need to stay at home rather than go to school. But even when they’re at school sometimes they can feel that other people in their class don’t quite understand them, and so it adds to that isolation.
And in addition of course, they feel distracted and they’re often worried about – even when they’re in school, what’s going on at home.
So really the other message we got loud and clear though is that young carers are interested in their education, they want to succeed, but they just might need a little bit of understanding, a little bit of empathy from the people around them to understand what they’re going through. And one of the other resources that was launched today was actually talking – for helping teachers talk to other people in the classroom, other students in the classroom about what it might be to be a young carer. To get that understanding about actually what it all means.
MATTHEW PANTELIS : Mmm. Do you think teachers have the time to, you know, empathise if you like, empathise with these people who obviously need someone to talk to. Have teachers the resources, and I know you’re putting something in place there, but do they have the time and the ability to spend that time with somebody in this position to help them?
AMANDA RISHWORTH: Well look, my understanding about what teachers do in the class every day is look at students as a whole. And I hear from teachers saying that they do have mental health issues and a range of things. And of course there’s specialised services that may need to be used in circumstances to assist students.
But what this is really is about identifying, and being the first one to identify and say look, you probably haven’t mentioned this to anyone…
MATTHEW PANTELIS : Sorry, I’ve hit a button accidentally, sorry about that Amanda.
AMANDA RISHWORTH: No worries.
But these teachers might not be providing the ongoing counselling, the ongoing assistance ‘cos there is those specialised services. But what it is about is identifying them because, as we heard today, these young carers do not ask for help. They just get on with their day to day and struggle through.
So it might not be, you know, these teachers actually, you know, doing the counselling or doing that support, but really identifying them in school and actually working around their educational needs. And I hear teachers doing that every day, helping people with maybe a learning difficulty succeed, well this is just looking at another group of young people that may not be able to succeed in the exact same way, and actually being able to work around it.
For example one of the things we heard this morning was allowing these young people to submit something online as opposed to handing it up in class, because…
MATTHEW PANTELIS : Yeah, good idea.
AMANDA RISHWORTH: So things like that. And I think the first big step is actually just being aware of these individual situation – understanding what a huge responsibility they do take on.
MATTHEW PANTELIS : Yeah indeed. Well it’s good to know that there is something aware – an awareness program put in place for them. It’s obviously something that needs to happen, and that’s a good first step I think. Big issue.
Amanda, thanks so much for your time.
AMANDA RISHWORTH: No worries, thank you Matthew.
MATTHEW PANTELIS : Amanda Rishworth who is the member for Kingston and Parliamentary secretary for disabilities and carers amongst other things too, sustainability and urban water, so one of our own local federal MPs.