Almost half of young carers will spend six or more hours caring for another member of their family on Christmas Day, an exclusive Community Care survey has found.
A quarter will have responsibility for cooking Christmas lunch, and more than a third are uncertain whether they will get help with caring tasks or a break from caring over the festive season.
Forty-six per cent of young carers have not talked to a social worker in the last year about the support they need, according to the survey of 109 young carers aged eight-16 in the UK. A further 23% don’t know whether they have.
The survey also revealed reluctance among young carers to want more professional support. Eighty per cent either didn’t know whether it would help them lead more normal lives or didn’t think it would. For the minority who had talked to a social worker, advice on being a carer and the opportunity to meet other carers were the most common actions, while help with sorting out household bills, transport and securing a better care package for the person they were caring for were the least common.
Most young carers – 71% – looked after a parent, while nearly one-fifth of people they cared for had a combination of conditions.
Despite their commitments, most young carers described themselves as happy and excited about Christmas.
The project co-ordinator of one young carer’s group, who helped to collect responses for the survey, said social workers needed to be more aware of the issues facing young carers. She added: “I come into contact with social workers who are working with families that have young carers and are unable to identify them as such. Not all our young carers have a social worker or know if they have one. Even if they do have one, they don’t know who it is or what they do.”
Dr Jo Aldridge, director of the Young Carers Research Group at Loughborough University, said findings showed how young carers lacked “crucial” support. She said: “Why aren’t the messages from research and practitioners getting through to social workers about the needs of young carers? It’s pretty damning, given the emphasis in policy.”
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Young Carers Research Group at Lougborough University