Campaigners are calling on the government to pledge more support for young carers as new research shows they lack information, formal support services and recognition for what they do.
Children caring for parents with serious mental health problems have to administer medication, care for siblings, undertake domestic tasks and negotiate caring with school life and friendships, according to the research published today.
While young carers can and do cope with parental mental illness and caring, their lives are “difficult and painful,” and more constrained than their peers, researchers at Loughborough University Young Carers research group found.
The study recommended that the “serious implications” of children giving their parents medication should be tackled “as a matter of urgency” and said greater recognition needed to be given to young carers’ contributions.
The study, based on the photo diaries of children caring for parents with a mental illness, was published as campaigners at the Princess Royal Trust for Carers called for the government’s current review of its national carer’s strategy to include a “thorough appraisal” of why an estimated 175,000 children are young carers.
The charity warned that young carers’ services in many councils could be cut if the government did not pledge to continue funding.
“Without this funding many councils will close their carers services and a vital lifeline for many young and adult carers will be lost,” Shan Nicholas, chief executive of the Princess Royal Trust for Carers said.
The charity wants to see a reduction in the number of young carers achieved though better provision of support for disabled parents, and for schools to provide more help in identifying and supporting young carers.
The calls follow the inquest last month into the death of 13-year-old carer Deanne Asamoah, who overdosed on the morphine prescribed for her terminally ill mother. Deanne had been caring for her mother, from Bletchley, Bucks, for four years.
Thomas Osborne, deputy coroner for Milton Keynes, who recorded a narrative verdict, said he would write to Children’s Minister Beverley Hughes asking why hundreds of young people were struggling with such serious responsibilities.
How to support young carers
Young Carers Research Group Loughborough University
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As part of an investigation into the plight of young carers, Community Care is looking for young carers and practitioners to talk to us about their views and hopes for the government’s review of the carer’s strategy. Please contact Lauren Revans at firstname.lastname@example.org by May 24 for the feature that will be published in Community Care in June.