How to support young carers

Each week the Social Care Institute for Excellence puts forward research findings in a specific field

Many children and young people are involved in caring for members of their family. In the 2001 census 175,000 children and young people in the UK were identified as carers – often for a parent with physical or learning disabilities, mental health problems, chronic illnesses or problems of addiction. This is probably an underestimate, as many young carers are reluctant to disclose their situation to professionals, especially if the parent has a mental health problem. A “young carer” is never an inevitable role, and it can be argued that young carers are created because services do not always offer the support parents need.

This lack of support means that young carers are more common in lone-parent families, families on low income, experiencing social exclusion and receiving little support from other family members. The average age of young carers is 12 years. Typically, more girls than boys act as young carers and around 15% of young carers are children from black and minority ethnic backgrounds. It should be noted that children from black and minority groups are also more likely to be assessed as young carers than white children.

The amount and type of care young carers provide varies, as do the effects caring can have on a young person. Research shows that being a young carer can impact on health, well-being, education and employment prospects. This is particularly true for children providing more than 20 hours of care a week. However, there is no research evidence on the existence of long-term emotional or mental health problems as a result of caring.

The approach – young carers’ projects

The number of referrals to young carers’ projects has risen significantly in recent years. Most projects offer the opportunity for young carers to get together with others in their area, join in activities, share common experiences and socialise. Social workers are most likely to make referrals to young carers’ projects, but teachers, youth workers and parents can also refer.

The evidence

Research consistently finds positive feedback about young carers’ projects. This is the only setting where many young carers consider their problems and experiences to be valued, understood and recognised. Young carers tend to feel that this support is both voluntary and non-intrusive .

However, the identification and assessment and referral of young carers can be problematic. Families can fear what professional intervention may lead to if they are identified. Some parents object to their children being labelled “in need”, which is the current language of assessment under children’s legislation. Young carers can be assessed by both adults’ and children’s services social workers, and not all are aware of the availability or existence or young carers’ projects in their area.

There is also evidence that carers’ projects are not accessible to all groups of young carers one study found that young carers from black and minority ethnic backgrounds were receiving no external support at all – including from young carers’ projects.

Despite extra funding from grants organisations like Comic Relief, most young carers’ projects are provided by the voluntary sector and are only funded short-term. They are therefore often vulnerable to closure. Young carers projects also tend to be based in cities, so young carers in rural settings may not be able to access their services.

Further information
“The Health and Well-being of Young Carers”, Scie Research briefing 11.
“Implementing the Carers (Equal Opportunities) Act 2004″, Practice guide 5.
Young Carers Initiative.
YCnet .
Young Carers Research Group (YCRG),  Loughborough University and the Institute of Applied Social Studies, University of Birmingham.

Practitioners’ messages

To identify, assess and support young carers:

 Have in place a protocol, shared between adults and children’s services, for identifying and assessing young carers. This will mean identifying service users as parents, which may be a new practice for some adults service practitioners. Services should ensure that staff are confident to have these conversations and know how to find the family support that is identified.

 Ensure that all assessments of adults include a check to find out if there are children in the family who either already caring or are likely to be. This will include discussing with parents what help they need and how services could provide this.

 Adopt a whole-family perspective, working jointly with statutory services for children and adults, voluntary services, education and (for children of 13 years and older) Connexions.

 Ensure that the authority has a senior lead on young carers to promptly resolve any disputes between adults’ and children’s services.

 Make yourself aware of the Young Carers Initiative www.youngcarer.com

To support the implantation, maintenance and membership of young carers’ projects:

 Make links with schools and local youth services to raise awareness about young carers and young carers’ projects.

 Make all members of adults and children’s services aware of young carers’ projects in your area.

 If there are no young carers projects in your area, enquire into their feasibility with statutory, voluntary and funding organisations.

● These abstracts are taken from Social Care Online, www.scie.org.uk – offering more than 90,000 books, abstracts, resources and references. It can be used to find information on every aspect of social care and some related areas such as health and housing.




research abstracts: young carers

practioners’ messages

To identify, assess and support young carers:

● Have in place a protocol, shared between adults and children’s services, for identifying and assessing young carers. This will mean identifying service users as parents, which may be a new practice for some adults service practitioners. Services should ensure that staff are confident to have these conversations and know how to find the family support that is identified.

● Ensure that all assessments of adults include a check to find out if there are children in the family who either already caring or are likely to be. This will include discussing with parents what help they need and how services could provide this.

● Adopt a whole-family perspective, working jointly with statutory services for children and adults, voluntary services, education and (for children of 13 years and older) Connexions.

● Ensure that the authority has a senior lead on young carers to promptly resolve any disputes between adults’ and children’s services.

● Make yourself aware of the Young Carers Initiative www.youngcarer.com

To support the implantation, maintenance and membership of young carers’ projects:

● Make links with schools and local youth services to raise awareness about young carers and young carers’ projects.

● Make all members of adults and children’s services aware of young carers’ projects in your area.

● If there are no young carers projects in your area, enquire into their feasibility with statutory, voluntary and funding organisations.

How to support young carers

 

More from Community Care

Comments are closed.