Press release

School nurses to play a bigger role in improving children’s health

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

School nurses will play a bigger and more important role in improving the health of children and young people.

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School nurses will play a bigger and more important role in improving the health of children and young people, according to plans announced today by the children’s Health Minister, Dr Dan Poulter.

England’s 1,200 school nurses and their teams will lead a new, strengthened and more tailored school nursing service which means better care and support for children, including those with disabilities and complex emotional needs.

For the first time ever, children who are carers will themselves train school nurses in how to provide the best support for young carers. As part of the plans, school nurses will:

  • Get more training to make sure their skills are constantly improved and updated so they can support children with more complex health needs;

  • Become local leaders in children’s health and be given the expertise to improve what school nurses offer to children. This could mean being available outside of school hours; and

  • Be champions for children who care for others to make sure they get the right support. Young carers themselves will train school nurses so they know exactly what support to provide.

The best school nurses will also be rewarded for their work through a new, national school nurse award.

Children’s Health Minister Dr Dan Poulter who is responsible for the Government’s programme for improving children’s health said:

School nurses play a crucial role in improving health and supporting young people. I want them to have an even bigger role and provide even better support for more young people with different health needs and conditions.

Young carers are often under incredible pressure both at home and at school. School nurses can do a lot to give young carers a voice and help ease that pressure. Our plans will help them do just that.

We continue to lead work with the NHS, Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health and local authorities to do everything possible to improve children’s health and to give each and every child the very best start in life.

There are as many as 700,000 young carers in the UK, and their caring responsibilities – which could be as intense as 50 hours a week – are often a hidden cause of health problems, bullying, truancy and not doing well at school. School staff can sometimes be unaware that children are carers, and school nurses are in a perfect position to provide the right support that young carers need to help them be happier and do better at school.

Dr Moira Fraser, Director of Policy and Research at Carers Trust:

Over 60 per cent of young carers are bullied in schools while nearly 30 per cent miss school or experience educational difficulties – often due to their caring responsibilities. Many don’t feel able to tell staff members at their school that they are a young carer.

These are worrying numbers and so we are heartened at the government’s plans to strengthen the role of school nurses in supporting young carers.

School nurses are ideally positioned to play a pivotal role in the lives of young people. They are well placed to identify young carers earlier and implement preventative support while reducing the negative impact on the health and wellbeing of young carers by initiating support for the whole family. We are pleased that young carers themselves will shape the work of school nurses by training them in how to provide the best support.

Today’s announcement builds on last year’s School Nursing Vision, which promised to make it easier to contact school nurses – including texting to make appointments. We continue to work with nursing bodies - including the School and Public Health Nurses’ Association - on the implementation of the vision.

Edward Timpson, Minister for Children and Families said:

Young carers have told us time and time again that they want their teachers and schools to be more ‘carer aware’, which is why we are determined to ensure that they are provided with the best support possible. “We know that some schools already have excellent systems in place to identify and respond to young carers needs. Unfortunately these pockets of excellence are too few and far between, leaving many vulnerable young people without the support they need to thrive.

Today’s announcement will mean that young carers across the country are being given a voice to help shape their own services – truly empowering these dedicated children and young people whose daily lives are dramatically affected by caring for family members.

Three hundred young people who have offered to become ‘school nurse champions’ and help shape the way the School Nursing Vision is implemented have also been trained and are beginning their work.

Notes to editors

• For more information, please contact the Department of Health press office on 020 7210 5703.

Published 16 April 2013