Thousands of young children spending more than 50 hours a week caring for a family member
Inquiry calls for a national carers strategy to address postcode lottery of support for young carers
The first ever parliamentary inquiry into young and young adult carers has revealed a lack of support is having a devastating impact on their education, wellbeing and future prospects.
An inquiry by the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Young Carers and Young Adult Carers, supported by national charity Carers Trust, published its findings today (14th November). It uncovered alarming evidence showing 15,000 children, including 3,000 aged just five to nine, spend 50 hours or more a week looking after family members because of illness, disability or addiction.
There are an estimated one million young carers in the UK and the time they spend caring can lead to them falling behind at school and damage their life opportunities. Yet, despite mounting evidence showing the impact of their caring role, little has been done to improve support over the years.
Many are not being identified by local authorities or schools and this is leading to a postcode lottery of support. The inquiry heard some are being left to cope alone for 10 years before being identified, while evidence to the inquiry showed the average waiting time to get support is three years.
The inquiry heard from 70 individuals and organisations including young carers services, schools and parents. Most powerfully, it heard from more than 400 young and young adult carers around the country, with many speaking about the difficulties they encountered in not being identified as a young carer, including a lack of support from schools, local authorities and other services. This lack of help often continued into early adulthood.
The inquiry also heard:
- There are significant waiting lists for assessments and support in some areas with services struggling to meet demand.
- Being a young carer has a knock-on effect on school attainment and attendance, with young carers missing 27 school days per year on average.
- Young adult carers are substantially (38%) less likely to achieve a university degree than their peers without a caring role.
- Young adult carers are less likely to be employed than their peers without a caring role.
- Young people with caring responsibilities have a higher prevalence of self-harm. Of children who do self-harm, young carers are twice as likely to attempt to take their own life than non-carers.
The report recommends the urgent introduction of a cross-government national carers strategy, including a properly resourced action plan for young carers and young adult carers. The Government should also work with young carers and young adult carers on immediate plans to improve early identification, increase access to support and reduce the numbers of young people providing excessive levels of care.
To coincide with the report release, a group of young carers will hand an open letter in at 10 Downing Street on 14 November demanding Prime Minister Rishi Sunak does more to help. The letter has been signed by more than 1,100 young and young adult carers.
About the APPG on Young Carers and Young Adult Carers
The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Young Carers and Young Adult Carers brings together Parliamentarians from across the political spectrum who are committed to improving the lives of young carers and young adult carers. The group’s mission is to provide a forum for key issues affecting young carers and young adult carers which will be addressed collaboratively by Parliamentarians and other key stakeholders, including young carers and young adult carers.
APPGs are informal groups of Members of the House of Commons and House of Lords with a common interest in particular issues. APPG publications are not an official House of Commons or House of Lords publication and they have not been approved by either House or its committees. The views expressed in the report are those of the APPG.
About Carers Trust
Carers Trust is the UK charity working to transform the lives of unpaid carers across the UK. It partners with its network of local carer organisations to provide funding and support, deliver innovative and evidence-based programmes and raise awareness & influence policy. Carers Trust’s vision is that unpaid carers are heard and valued, with access to support, advice and resources to enable them to live fulfilled lives. To find your nearest local carer organisation for advice and support, visit carers.org
A young carer is someone aged under 18 who cares for a friend or family member who, due to illness, disability, a mental health problem or an alcohol or substance misuse problem, cannot cope without the young carer’s support. Young adult carers are aged 16 to 25, who may have different support needs to young carers as they become adults.