Young carer’s: the expert view
Three social care experts gave us their views on our exclusive young carer’s survey.
Dr Jo Aldridge, director, young carers research group at Loughborough University: “The survey shows that 74% of young carers will be caring for a family member for three to six hours or more on Christmas day, which clearly indicates not only the onerous and persistent nature of their responsibilities but shows that crucial support is missing at a time when we would expect children and young people to be able to be free to enjoy themselves.
“A relatively high figure – 30% of children – will be cooking Christmas lunch. Whether in terms of the extent of children’s caring responsibility or simply from a safety perspective, this figure is too high.
“It would have been interesting to know whether the young carers in the sample had discussed their support needs with someone other than a social worker in the last year. However, nearly half hadn’t spoken to a social worker about their needs, despite the level of care these young people are providing. Why aren’t the messages from research and practitioners getting through to social workers about the needs of young carers? It’s also pretty damning, given the emphasis in policy, that care packages and improvements to these for care recipients were discussed so infrequently with young carers.
“The fact that six out of 11 respondents described negative feelings about Christmas also highlights the ongoing concerns and anxieties young carers experience even at Christmas time when children and young people should be able to enjoy themselves.
“It is both telling and sad that most of the respondents in the sample linked a ‘better Christmas’ with issues relating to improvements in the health and well being of the person for whom they were caring, their own stressful caring responsibilities and anxieties or concerns about family finances.”
Julie Jones, chief executive of the Social Care Institute for Excellence : “Young carers are often an overlooked and hidden group, so it’s important to highlight their experiences and perceptions. The Christmas holiday season can result in increased expectations and responsibilities for young carers. Where services are involved, adult and child care plans should promote the needs and wishes of individuals and their right to a positive family experience. It should not be necessary for young people to spend most of their day supporting someone else. Contingency plans need to be put in place to ensure that young carers are considered at times when other support is less available due to seasonal holidays like Christmas. What is encouraging to hear is that most of these young people feel positive about Christmas and are looking forward to the festive period.”
Alex Fox, assistant director, policy and service development, Princess Royal Trust for Carers: “The Community Care snapshot of young carers highlights some issues familiar from our work with over 15,000 young carers, UK wide. It gives a picture of a diverse group of young people, some of them apparently happy and proud, some of them frustrated and struggling. Most young carers tell us they have fallen into both those categories at one time or another.
“No young carers whose parents misuse substances responded to the survey, reflecting the difficulties in reaching this most vulnerable group. Nationally, there are up to 350,000 children of substance misusers, along with 1.3m children of alcoholics. Christmas can be particularly grim for them.
“If we want there to be fewer young carers dreading next Christmas, the new national carers strategy will have to motivate councils to end the funding cuts threatened in some areas. But more deeply, we need a culture change, with adults’ services taking responsibility for supporting their adult clients in their parenting roles, as the law, in theory, requires.”