Did you know that there are 700,000 young carers in the UK and that the average age for a young carer is just 12 years old.
One of the children in you work with or engage might actually be a superhero; someone who makes a real difference in other people’s lives. The marvel of it is that there are 700,000 young superheroes quietly caring for others across the UK every day.
What is a young carer?
In England and Scotland a young carer is under the age of 18, however they also define a ‘young adult carer’ as up to age 25.
Similarly in Wales, the code of practice recognises young adult carers as aged 16-25.
In Northern Ireland, a young carer is defined as someone under the age of 23 who provides care for a relative who is sick or disabled.
What does it actually mean to be a young carer?
Despite all the extra responsibilities they take on, many young carers don’t even realise that they are one. However, it is really important that they know they are acting as a young carer because there is special support available for them – keep reading below to find out!
How does caring affect someone?
Young carers often help out around the house doing jobs such as cooking, cleaning, washing, shopping, looking after siblings or by providing personal care for a family member. Whilst young carers very often simply want to do what they can to help their family, there can be an adverse impact on their social life and wellbeing.
Young carers may have worries that non-carers might not even think about during the day. They might worry about what to make for dinner or whether there’s enough money to go shopping for food. They can also become distracted because they are concerned about how the person they care for is coping without them.
How do they study or go to work?
Most young carers are still in school or college and it can be a struggle to balance their workload with the responsibly of caring for a family member. This often results in missing days from school: Young Minds, an organisation that supports young people, suggests that young carers miss 48 days a year on average . It is therefore not surprising that some young carers can feel overwhelmed, stressed and suffer from anxiety.
Sadly, many young carers’ have been bullied at some point because of they are caring for a family member.
What support/help can a young carer receive?
There are many organisations throughout the UK which provide support for young carers. These services provide them with the chance to unwind and meet others in a similar position. They can learn more about the illness they’re caring for, and critically what other support is available for both them and their loved ones. A few such organisations are listed at the bottom of this article.
What if one of my students is a young carer?
Maybe you’ve only just realised, or maybe you already knew – but it’s important to know how to support young people who are in this position of responsibility.
Be Understanding – If a child in your care is already identified as a young carer it is important to be understanding around their needs but you should also encourage them and provide support so that they don’t fall behind in their education.
Young Carers in Schools Programme – this programme is run by the Carers Trust and The Children’s Society and works with schools sharing good practice, providing teachers guides, webinars and the Young Carers in Schools Award.
Supporting Young Carers in School: An Introduction for Primary and Secondary School Staff – This document provides advice and best practice for professionals working with young carers.
Services for Young Carers
There are so many organisations offering support that we can’t list them all; below are only a few as an example. You can look into services in your own area by searching on the web – you never know when a child or young person may need support.
Some examples of organisations that help young carers are;
Childline – 0800 1111 (24 hour service)
Resources from Young Carers Trust