Young carers will bear the brunt of government social care cuts, campaigners have claimed, after new research revealed there could be four times as many of them in the UK than previously thought.
The figures, uncovered by the BBC in a survey of school children and published today, show that about 700,000 children and young people could be caring for a parent or sibling – four times higher than the number identified by the 2001 census.
The National Young Carers Coalition said the figures came as no surprise and were probably an under-estimation. Budget cuts would leave young carers with even less social worker support, it claimed.
“Thresholds for those needing care will be put under immense pressure,” said the coalition. “Many families will increasingly have to rely on the care of their child, or children, to do the things that social care had previously done or should have been doing. In turn, this will put pressure on already stretched specialist young carers’ services.”
The coalition, which includes Martin Narey, chief executive of Barnardo’s and Carole Cochrane, chief executive of The Princess Royal Trust for Carers, urged national and local governments not to cut funding for services that support young carers and their families because it could be detrimental to their health.
Jan Leightley, strategic director of children’s services for Action for Children, said: “The research has confirmed that there is a hidden army of young carers across the UK who desperately need help and support.
“Now that the magnitude of this problem has been identified we urge local authorities not to reduce support for this vulnerable group of youngsters.
“Further, all those working with vulnerable adults who have children need to do all that they can to make sure that these children are being supported.
“We know that, with the right support, young carers can flourish and reach their full potential and this must remain a priority despite the economic pressures.”
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