Young Carers – Background

Why do young carers need whole family support?

Young carers laughingYoung carers are children and young people under 18 years old who provide regular and ongoing care to a family member who is physically or mentally ill, disabled or misuses substances. [1]

The 2011 Census identified 166,363 young carers aged under 18 years old in England. These figures are likely to be significantly under representative as many young carers remain hidden. Research undertaken by the BBC in 2010 suggested there were as many as 700,000 young carers in the UK.

The tasks and level of caring undertaken by young carers can vary according to the nature of the illness or disability, the level and frequency of need for care and the structure of the family as a whole. The negative impact of caring can be significant and long term on a young person’s physical and emotional health, socialisation and life opportunities.

Education: At GCSE level young carers perform the equivalent to nine grades lower i.e. the difference between nine C’s and nine D’s. [2] 27% of young carers of secondary school age experience educational difficulties or miss school, and where pupils are caring for someone who misuses drugs or alcohol, 40% have educational difficulties. [3]

Employment: Young carers aged between 16 and 18 years are twice as likely as their peers to be NEET. [4] When in work at age 20/21 young adult carers are more likely to be in lower skilled occupations [5] and many young adult carers will consider flexibility and proximity to home.

Health: The recent 2011 Census showed that
young carers providing 50+ hours of care a week were up to five times more likely to report their general health as ‘Not good’4. 38% of young adult carers reported mental health issues in recent research of 77 school aged carers. [6]

Legal Change

Through the Children and Families Act and the Care Bill the Government is changing 7 12athe law to significantly strengthen the rights of young carers. These changes propose that from April 2015, when a child is identified as a young carer, the needs of everyone in the family are to be considered. This should trigger action from both children’s and adults services – assessing why a child is caring, what needs to change and what would help the family to prevent children from taking on this responsibility in the first place. Making A Step Change Policy Briefing.

Whole Family Working

Legislation, guidance and good practice all direct practitioners to consider the needs of the child within the context of the family. A holistic approach is always advocated meeting the needs of the person who is ill or disabled, recognising family strengths as well as the difficulties, barriers and challenges, whilst being careful not to undermine parenting skills.

It is equally important to ensure that, within such a holistic approach, children’s voices and feelings are heard and taken into account. Society has a legal duty to consult, inform, support and protect children who find themselves in a caring role that impacts upon their own development and aspirations. Children need to also be informed that they have a choice in whether or not to take on a caring role.

[1]. ADASS, ADCS and The Children’s Society (2012), Memorandum of Understanding (ADASS, ADCS and The Children’s Society)
[2]. The Children’s Society (2013) Hidden from view: The experiences of young carers London, The Children’s Society.
[3]. Dearden, C and Becker, S (2004), Young Carers in the UK: The 2004 Report, Carers UK.
[4]. Audit Commission (2010), Against The Odds, Targeted Briefing: Young Carers. London: Audit Commission.
[5]. The Children’s Society (2013) Hidden from view: The experiences of young carers London, The Children’s Society.
[6]. Sempik, J and Becker, J (2013), Young Adult Carers at School: Experiences and Perceptions of Caring and Education (London: Carers Trust).