The recent Young Carers Awareness Day has sparked much debate about the numbers of young people who are caring for a relative or friend, and the impact this has on their mental health, education and future prospects.
#Focus5 key workers often meet young people who have carer duties at the same time as dealing with their own life or education difficulties and there are thousands of young carers across Devon and Somerset.
A young carer is someone under 18 who helps look after someone in their family, or a friend, who is ill, disabled or misuses drugs or alcohol. The Carers Trust suggests that 1 in 5 secondary school pupils have a caring role, totaling over 800,000 in England. This translates to 6 young carers in every secondary school classroom. The average age of a young carer is just 13, but 10% of young carers are aged under 10.
The number of recognised young carers in the UK has risen by more than 10,000 in four years, prompting concerns that they are taking up the slack from increasingly pressured adult social care services. The most frightening statistic is that 80% of young carers may not be receiving the support they need from their local authority.
Carer duties being undertaken by these young people include; practical tasks such as cooking or housework, physical care, emotional support, personal care, managing finances or helping with communication. Being a young carer can have a big impact on a young person’s development in the following ways:
- Young carers are more likely to have anxiety or depression that other people their age.
- 50% of young carers feel stressed and 46% say they feel lonely.
- Almost half of young carers under the age of 8 get up in the night to care, interrupting sleep.
- 1 in 10 young carers are late for school at least once a week.
- 26% of young carers say they have been bullied because they care for someone.
- Young carers are twice as likely not to be in education, training or employment.
- 23% of young carers say caring makes it harder to form friendships.
Many of these statistics originate from research carried out by BBC News and Nottingham University who surveyed children across England. While the survey only covered England, this is an issue across the UK. In Wales, the official figures say there are 7,000 but research suggests a figure four times higher. In Scotland, the Carers Trust says there are carers. The trust says there are 30,000 young carers in Northern Ireland.
Within the past five years two new pieces of legislation have been brought in, giving significant new rights to carers in England – the Children and Families Act 2014 and the Care Act 2014. Young carers have the right to a “carer’s assessment”, which is the duty of the local authority. These assessments measure the effect on young carers’ wellbeing – health, education or friendships – and whether they should continue carrying out that level of care.
There are young carers not known to the authorities and others have to wait too long for an assessment, some experts suggest. Campaigners warn that cuts to care packages and pressures on adult social care services mean more teenagers and young people have to sacrifice work and study to care for relatives.
Giles Meyer, CEO of Carers Trust, has said, “This new data blows all previous figures out of the water, revealing a generation of young carers who are being neglected by society. This is a monumental wake-up call for us all to take responsibility for these vulnerable children. “
For some young people, carers allowance is not easily obtainable or is being reduced, meaning they then have to make difficult decisions about whether to stay in work or education.
Support for Young Carers in the #Focus5 Region
In Plymouth almost every city school now has a dedicated ‘carers champion’ and other local authorities are looking to mirror the scheme. Over 700 young carers have been identified in Plymouth and there are services such as Hamoaze House and Barnardos providing support. Youngsters can also meet other young carers at weekly sessions at Efford Youth Centre through the Young Carers Project. The Fun and Freedom Club also offers young carers a chance to make new friends in a similar situation, it offers lots of fun with weekend clubs, days out and trips away. To find out more contact 01752 668000.
Somerset Young Carers work with children and young people in Somerset who have regular caring responsibilities. They offer fortnightly support groups, trips and days out, a school liaison service, counselling and information and advice. The service is free, although contributions are sometimes asked for, to help with the cost of a trip or activity. Somerset Partnership mental health Carers Service provides ‘Listen To Me!’ rucksacks for Young Carers which contain age-appropriate booklets and resources for young people caring for a family member or friend with mental health problems To find out more contact: 0300 1232224.
Devon Young Carers work with people age 4-18 supporting over 3000 young people across the county and they believe there are many more out there who need support. They offer specialist advice, access to respite opportunities and 1:1 support. They have a team of professionals who can arrange; school visits, information and advice, trips, activities and support from a lead practitioner. There are regular support groups across the county as well as health and well-being events. To find out more contact: 03456 434435.
The #Focus5 project is funded by the European Social Fund and The National Lottery Community Fund.