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About Young Carers

Who are Young Carers?

Young Carers are children and young people who look after someone in their family who has an illness, a disability, or is affected by mental ill-health or substance misuse.

Young Carers often take on practical and/or emotional caring responsibilities that would normally be expected of an adult.

Research shows that 81% of young carers care for a parent, often a single parent, and a quarter look after a disabled sibling. It is important to remember that Young Carers helping to look after a sibling are often overlooked. It is also very important to remember that not every child whose parent or sibling is ill or disabled is necessarily a young carer.

The tasks undertaken by Young Carers can vary according to the nature of the illness or disability, the level and frequency of need for care and the structure of the family as a whole.

A young carer may undertake some or all of the following:

  • Practical tasks, such as cooking, housework and shopping.
  • Physical care, such as lifting, helping a parent on stairs or with physiotherapy.
  • Personal and Intimate care tasks, such as dressing, washing, helping with toileting needs.
  • Managing the family budget, collecting benefits and prescriptions.
  • Administering medication.
  • Looking after or “parenting” younger siblings.
  • Emotional support.
  • Interpreting, due to a hearing or speech impairment or because English is not the family’s first language.
  • Some Young Carers may undertake high levels of care, whereas for others it may be frequent low levels of care. Either can impact heavily on a child or young person.

A young carer becomes vulnerable when the level of care given and responsibility to the person in need of care becomes excessive or inappropriate for that child, risking impacts on his or her emotional or physical well-being, educational achievement or life chances.

What are the Effects of Being a Young Carer?

Being a young carer can have positive and negative effects on the lives of young carers.

Life skills and positive aspects of caring

  • Feeling closer to the person cared for;
  • Being more mature;
  • Greater understanding and compassion.

Compassion, consideration, determination, empathy, understanding and tolerance of disability and illness can also all be acquired but the negative aspects of caring often outweigh the positive.

What are the negative effects of being a young carer?

A young carer’s personal and physical development, physical and emotional health, as well as social opportunities can all be affected by the family situation and their caring role.

Negative effects can include:

  • Missing school or being distracted when at school;
  • Feeling lonely because of not having enough time for friends, sports and social activities;
  • Physical illness, such as back pain due to helping to lift the person being cared for;
  • Being ‘on call’ all the time;
  • Worry and resentment, or boredom due to having to spend a lot of time at home.
  • Family break-up, loss and bereavement.

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