A new survey by Carers Trust has revealed that young carers across the UK are struggling to get the most out of their education, and are in danger of not fulfilling their ambitions due to their caring role.
Of the young adult carers surveyed, over half (53%) were having problems in coping with schoolwork, with nearly 60% struggling to meet deadlines. A startling number – 73% – told us that they have to take time out of school or learning specifically to care for a family member. A third admitted that they have to skip school most weeks.
With 82% of young adult carers also reporting stress, a worrying picture is emerging, revealing the extent to which their caring role is severely affecting their future choices.
A female young adult carer said, ‘I wanted to be like everyone else and go to university, but I suffered a breakdown, and only achieved the lowest grade in my degree. I couldn’t go far from my parents as I had responsibilities and their lives really went to s**t with me not being there to run the house. I haven’t gone back to live there as it is no good for my mental health, but their struggle is far greater now which brings me a lot of guilt.’
Number of young carers
There are an estimated 700,000 children and young people across the UK, some as young as five-years-old, who are caring for family members. This is likely a conservative figure as many are hidden from view.
Most care for a parent or other close family member, day in, day out, and shockingly, at least 13,000 young carers are providing care for over 50 hours a week on top of their studies.
A young carer explained how caring has made it more of a challenge to achieve his dream job, ‘Because I became a carer during my GCSE’s, which resulted in me having anxiety and depression, my focus in school and in lessons went down. And most of the time, due to my self-harm and anxiety problems I wouldn’t go to my lessons.’
Supporting young carers to achieve their dreams and ambitions
Gail Scott-Spicer, Chief Executive of Carers Trust, said, ‘Our new survey data paints a very worrying picture for the hundreds of thousands of young carers across the UK, if the right support and guidance isn’t in place. Being a young carer should not mean that a child’s future hopes, dreams and ambitions are shattered.
‘We know young carers miss or cut short on average 10 weeks of school a year as a direct result of their caring role, and those aged between 16 and 18 years are twice as likely to be not in education, employment or training (NEET). We must make sure young carers get the support they need so they can enjoy their childhoods like any other young person and achieve their ambitions.
‘On Young Carers Awareness Day, Carers Trust wants to reach hidden young carers up and down the UK, who desperately need our help.’
Young Carers Awareness Day
Young Carers Awareness Day aims to raise awareness of the plight of young carers and Carers Trust is asking people to spot the signs of caring, such as being late or absent from school or behavioural issues. Swift identification of young carers will ensure they get vital support.
Carers Trust also has a number of Young Carers Awareness Day resources
What can young carers do to help themselves?
In response to the survey by Carers Trust, Cllr Richard Watts, Chair of the Local Government Association’s Children and Young People Board said, ‘Every young carer has a right to an assessment to find out if they need additional support, and councils will do all they can to provide this support where needs are identified. However, councils need the support of all members of the community to help identify young carers to make sure that their needs can be assessed quickly, and the necessary support provided.
‘Good relationships between councils, schools, the NHS and other organisations are crucial to making sure that children are referred as quickly as possible and get the support they need to help them their lives to the fullest.’
*The survey, carried out by Carers Trust in December 2016, features responses from 302 young adult carers aged 16 to 24 on their dreams and ambitions while growing up as a young carer.
You can also follow the hashtag #YoungCarersAwarenessDay to find out more information.
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