A young carer is someone under the age of 18 who helps look after a family member or loved one who is ill, disabled or misuses alcohol or drugs.

The BBC estimates that there are 700,000 young carers in the UK[1], equivalating to 1 in 5 children[2]. According to The Children's Society, 23,000 of these young carers are under nine years old[3].

Typical tasks carried out by young carers include:

  • Cooking and cleaning
  • Helping a loved one out of bed or get dressed
  • Aiding a loved one with taking their medication
  • Caring for siblings

Wales was found to have the highest rate of young carers, with 30,000 recorded[4].

young carers holding hands with elderly patients

Anne Longfield, the Children's Commissioner for England, said: "The contribution young carers make to others every day is remarkable. Yet it is still the case that far too many are not even being identified."[5]

While many young carers are happy to provide care for loved ones, there have been reports that their caring roles are impacting their progression at school and also their physical and mental health.

The Children's Society also found that 1 in 12 young carers spent more than 15 hours per week caring[6]. Additionally, it was discovered in a UK census that over half of the children interviewed reported that they had to get up during the night to deliver care. As a result, these young carers were losing out on sleep[7].

On average, 48 school days are missed or cut short each year due to the need to deliver care for a loved one[8]. A study funded by the Big Lottery Fund discovered that young carers have "significantly lower" attainment at GCSE level than their peers[9].

In a survey of 808 teaching professionals by children's charity, Barnardo's, it was found that 34% of these professionals felt that young carers at their schools were not adequately supported[10]. A further 29% of those interviewed were not aware of any particular support put in place to aid these children[11].

Chief Executive of Barnardo's, Javed Khan, expressed that it was unacceptable that young people were "having to sacrifice their futures for the ones they loved."

Additionally, Barnardo's reported that "A quarter of the children supported by Barnardo's young carers' services are carrying out more than 30 hours a week of caring - that's the equivalent of a full-time job."[12]

 

It was found that the role of caring for a child had a profound impact on their mental health. 1 in 3 young carers said that their mental health had been negatively affected[13].

Furthermore, 23% of young cares felt isolated due to their caring role[14]. This isolation magnifies during the holiday periods with 72% of young carers suffering from loneliness over the summer holidays[15]. Many also worry about what their peers would think if they revealed that they were a carer. 57% of young carers were reported to feel anxious or worried about telling friends what they did during the school holidays[16].

The CEO of Carers Trust, Giles Meyer, emphasised that: "It's hardly surprising therefore that so many of the young carers we speak to are crying out for help and support to ease the stress and worry they experience as a result of caring for someone."[17]

 

Organisations such as The Honeypot Children's Charity offer short respite breaks for young carers so they can socialise with others and relax. However, with so many young carers in the UK applying, there can be up to a six-month waiting list[18].

 

This Young Carers Awareness Day raises awareness and support for children in caring roles and the challenges they face daily. 

To find out more about young carers, and what you could do to help, visit: https://carers.org/section/get-involved



[1] https://youngminds.org.uk/find-help/looking-after-yourself/young-carers/

[2] https://carers.org/sites/default/files/media/young_carers_who_are_they_what_do_they_do_0.pdf

[3] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-22529237

[4] https://socialcare.wales/hub/hub-resource-sub-categories/young-carers-and-young-adult-carers

[5] https://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/35420196

[6] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-22529237

[7] https://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/35420196

[8] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-33349255

[9] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-22529237

[10] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-42238683

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid.

[13] https://carers.org/sites/default/files/media/young_carers_who_are_they_what_do_they_do_0.pdf

[14] Ibid.

[15] https://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/45045216

[16] Ibid

[17] https://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/47059560