I’m a young carer
Wigan and Leigh Carers Centre has over 15 years’ experience of working with young carers, from as young as five, through their teenage years and right up until they become independent adults. We work across the whole of Wigan borough and are a vibrant charity with a big heart. We have some amazing success stories and feel proud to be part of a young carer’s journey into adulthood – our track record speaks for itself; we now have some young adult carers volunteering – as they are eager to ‘give something back’ to the charity which has supported them.
Young carer definitions
There are two major pieces of legislation that define and enshrine rights for young carers. The Care Act and the Children and Families Act. Their definitions differ.
“Young carer means a person under 18 who provides or intends to provide care for an adult” (Care Act (2014), Section 63, 7).
Alternatively, “young carer” means a person under 18 who provides or intends to provide care for another person (but this is qualified by section 17ZB(3)). Children and Families Act 2014 (c. 6) Part 5 — Welfare of children.
We take the wider definition to cover siblings, and even on occasion people outside of the immediate family.
We support young adult carers up to the age of 24. Increasingly we are seeing use of the term ‘Transition Age Carer’ to cover the transition into adulthood and this covers the age range 14-24.
The term young adult carer being reserved for carers who are adult, but still young.
Caring is diverse and depends on the needs of the people who are cared for. Caring is generally seen to take one or more of the following forms:
- Personal care
- Physical care
- Emotional support
- Practical care
- Sibling care
Of these we would expect sibling care and practical care (e.g. chores) to be carried out by older siblings, and most young people with siblings. The key concern is are they doing more chores due to family members being unable to? Are they looking after siblings more because other family members cannot; or are they looking after siblings with additional needs due to illness or disability?
A key issue is the concept of inappropriate care:
Inappropriate caring responsibilities should be considered as anything which is likely to have an impact on the child’s health, wellbeing or education, or which can be considered unsuitable in light of the child’s circumstances and may include: personal care such as bathing and toileting; carrying out strenuous physical tasks such as lifting; administering medication; maintaining the family budget; emotional support to the adult. Care and Support Statutory Guidance (DoH 2014).
Long term health conditions
Children may care for people with a range of long term health conditions generally categorised to take one or more of the following forms:
- Sensory disability
- Long term illness
- Physical disability
- Learning disability
- Mental health conditions
- Problematic use of drugs and or alcohol
Are there any young carers in my area?
We have over 1,100 young carers between the ages of 5 and 24 registered with us, but there is more to be done to raise awareness and to ensure that these young people are recognised and supported at an early age.
Young carers are often described as hidden, and therefore estimates vary as to how many there are. We frequently use two sources to estimate numbers in Wigan borough. The lower estimate is 2.3% based on the 2011 census. The higher estimate is 8% based on a survey undertaken by the BBC and the University of Nottingham.
A simple estimate based on the number of children in the borough suggests between 1,300 and 4,500 children have some sort of caring role. This figure excludes young adult carers (YACs) in the 18-24 age range. The extent and degree of caring can differ remarkably as well as the impact of the ‘type’ of caring.
Why are young carers hidden?
Some of the most common reasons that young carers are hidden include:
- Parent’s condition is not obvious. People don’t think they need any help.
- They do not realise that they are a carer.
- They don’t want to be seen as different from their peers.
- They believe their school will show no interest in their family circumstances.
- They want to keep their identity at school separate from their caring role.
- It’s not the sort of thing they feel can be discussed with friends.
- There has been no opportunity to share their story.
- They are worried about bullying.
- They worry that the family will be split up and taken into care.
- They want to keep it a secret and/or are embarrassed.
- They see no reason or positive actions occurring as a result of telling their story.
Impacts of caring
In a recent study the average total GCSE points score for a young person who had caring responsibilities in year 9 was 333, compared to 386 for young people who were not young carers in year 9.
Equivalent to nine GCSE grades overall, or the difference between nine Bs and nine Cs. Hidden from View, 2012 p. 12 Cheesbrough et al., 2017a, b.
- 16% vs. 3% of carers report being bullied compared to non-carers
- 10% vs. 1% of carers report being late for school compared to non-carers
- 28% vs 50% of carers report having never been absent from school compared to non-carers.
GMA Survey – By carers for carers (245 from 7 Boroughs)
- 1/3 of young carers haven’t told their school they are carers
- 3 out of 5 don’t have a lead in school
- 9 out of 10 panic or worry when they aren’t with the person they care for
- 1 in 5 don’t feel they have the skills to care for the person they have to look after
- 44% worry about being taken into care
- Over 60% can’t afford anything other than necessities
- Outside of YC services 15% never see friends
It is our aim at Wigan and Leigh Carers Centre to challenge these issues and help support Wigan’s young carers and young adult carers. If you wish to discuss any of these issues in confidence, please contact us.