A young carer is someone aged 18 or under who helps look after a relative who has a condition, such as a disability, illness, mental health condition, or a drug or alcohol problem.
Most young carers look after one of their parents or care for a brother or sister. This might involve extra jobs in and around the home, such as cooking, cleaning, or helping someone to get dressed and move around.
Some children give a lot of physical help to a brother or sister or parent who is disabled or ill. They may also be giving emotional support to both sibling and parents.
Hackney Council provides recreational respite, advocacy, a befriending service and therapeutic support to young people who have caring responsibilities for a relative with a long-term illness or disability.
A young carers are children and young people under 18 years old who provide unpaid care to a family member who is physically or mentally ill, disabled or misuses substances.
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.
A young carer may undertake some or all of the following:
- Practical tasks such as cooking, housework, shopping.
- Physical care such as lifting, helping up the stairs and physiotherapy.
- Personal Care such as dressing, washing and helping someone go to the toilet.
- Emotional support such as listening, calming someone and being present.
- Household management such as paying the bills, managing finances and collecting benefits.
- Looking after siblings such as putting to be and walking to school.
- Interpreting for parents with hearing or speech impediments or English as an additional language.
- Administering medication such as insulin needles and preparing daily tablets.
How many young carers are there in the UK?
The 2011 census identifies over 200,000 young carers in the UK, but research by the BBC in 2010 indicates that there are as many as 700,000 young carers living in the UK.
Hidden carers - Carers remain hidden for many reasons including:
They do not realise that they are a carer or that their life is different to their peers.
Their parent’s do not realise that their children are carers.
They worry that the family will be split up and taken into care.
They don’t want to be any different from their peers.
Their parent’s condition is not obvious so people don’t think that they need any help.
There has been no opportunity to share their story.
They see no reason or positive actions occurring as a result of telling their story.
Why do young carers need your support?
Young carers often go unnoticed in their communities, but the negative impacts of caring on young people can be very real and enduring. If left unsupported young carers can take on responsibilities that will have a lasting effect on their health and wellbeing, friendships and life opportunities.
Many young carers experience issues with their:
- Physical health: often severely affected by caring through the night, repeatedly lifting a heavy adult, poor diet and lack of sleep.
- Emotional wellbeing: stress, tiredness and mental ill-health are common for young carers.
- Isolation: feeling different or isolated from their peers and with limited social opportunities.
- Lack of a stable environment: traumatic life changes such as bereavement, family break-up, losing income and housing, or seeing the effects of an illness or addiction.
The wider impacts of these effects can be felt on a young carer in their education, employment and their health and wellbeing.
This pack aims to make you aware of your rights – your human rights, your legal rights, and your rights to access things like benefits, support and advice.
Need to know where to find things out in a hurry? Our pack has lots of links to useful and interesting resources that can help you – and help raise awareness about young carers’ issues!
Know your rights has been produced by Young Carers in Focus (YCiF), and funded by the Big Lottery Fund.
Young Carers in Schools is a free England wide initiative making it as easy as possible for schools to support young carers and awarding good practice. In doing so, it supports and celebrates effective local partnership working.
Tools aiming to make it as easy as possible for young carers services to raise school awareness of the programme locally, include:
- Exemplar text and icon for use on websites, local portals and in e-newsletters.
- Young Carers in Schools leaflet.
- Template letters for use with local schools.
- Young Carers in Schools video.
- PowerPoint presentations containing key information about young carers and the Young Carers in Schools programme.
These tools are available to download from the Young Carers in Schools Programme.
Is your school doing great things for young carers? Increase identification, improve outcomes and gain an Award for your school through the Young Carers in Schools programme, run by Carers Trust and The Children’s Society.
This is a tool for all adults’ and children’s services, education, health and other agencies who have contact with young carers and their families. The Children’s Society has developed this Whole Family Pathway, to ensure that however a family (Parent or Child) in need of support first makes contact with an agency, the same key points are followed.
Young carers in schools presentation (PDF) - Key information about young carers.
Multidimensional assessment of caring activities (PDF) - a questionnaire to be completed by young carers (an 18-item self-report measure) that can be used to provide an index (or score) of the total amount of caring activity undertaken by a child or young person.
Whole family pathway (PDF) - Using this tool will help practitioners to implement the changes in legislation for young carers and their families outlined in the Care Act 2014 and Children and Families Act 2014.