Being a young carer – someone under the age of 18 who is caring for a family member – is a challenging occupation. Although many find the responsibility rewarding, caring for a loved one with a physical disability, illness, mental illness, or drug or alcohol issue is undoubtedly difficult and demanding. The 2011 census reported that in England alone there were 166,000 young carers, but other studies suggest the number could be significantly higher. This includes children as young as 5 who could be looking after a parent or grandparent, or assisting with the care of a sibling.
Looking at the statistics
In the UK, there are an estimated 700,000 young carers aged between 5 and 17.
Government research surveys have discovered that around 78% of parents of young carers surveyed reported their child to be undertaking practical tasks as part of their young carer role. These tasks included cooking, cleaning, paperwork such as dealing with bills and applications, and household chores.
The report also discovered that around 26% of young carers surveys were providing nursing care for their loved one. Of these children and young people, around 64% have found some form of formal or informal support, while a staggering 68% suffer bullying at school.
The Challenges of being a Young Carer
Being a young carer is both physically and emotionally demanding. Children and young people in this position are required to take on a level of responsibility which is alien to many grown adults, let alone children. Often their education suffers due to absence or tiredness, affecting their ability to concentrate during school hours. Social lives suffer and some struggle to maintain friendships.
But this needn’t be the case with proper support. Young carers may need to grow up before their time, but with a strong network of support and time with which to be children again, these young people can care for their loved ones whilst also living their childhood.
Getting Support For Young Carers in Richmond
If you are a young carer yourself, or you are looking for advice for a young carer you know, don’t be afraid to ask for help. There are a number of services and charities, both local and around the UK, that are there specifically for people like you. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, failing, or letting anyone down. In fact, with the right support, you can provide better care for both your family member and yourself.
The support offered can include respite trips and days out, activities which bring together other young carers, or just someone to talk to, in support groups or one-to-one.
Richmond Care and Support offer help in your local area for carers of all ages, with specialist support for people under the age of 18. To speak to someone about getting support, you can call 020 8867 2383 or you can email them at [email protected]
Carers.org is the website of Carers Trust, who also provide help and advice to carers of all ages. Advice ranges from monetary and benefits advice to legal rights, getting a break and how to take care of yourself when others are your priority.
Well-known children’s charities such as Action for Children also have specialist teams looking out for young carers, offering practical and emotional support. They focus on allowing for young carers to balance their responsibilities with having fun and enjoying themselves, as well as being able to achieve to their best ability in school.
If you or someone you know are a young carer, there is no need for you or them to feel alone. There are a lot of places where you can get support and respite, as well as all the advice you need on your rights as a young carer. All of the above named organisations are entirely non-judgemental and will look at your individual needs and circumstances in an open, caring and friendly way.