Young Carers Awareness Day
Young Carers Action Day is taking place on16th March 2021. The day gives a voice to young carers and young adult carers and highlights the challenges and issues they face as well as empowering young carers and helping them with their wellbeing.
Who is a young carer?
A young carer is someone under 18 years of age who helps look after someone in their family, or a friend, who is ill, disabled or misuses drugs and/or alcohol. Many carers are caring from a young age.
There are an estimated 800,000 young carers* in the UK and 21,000 in East Sussex. An estimated 1 in 5 secondary school pupils are young carers in the UK.
What does a young carer do?
Young carers take on a lot of responsibility, most of which would generally be regarded as parents’ and adults’ responsibilities.
They might carry out practical tasks and chores such as cooking, shopping and housework, give physical and personal care, and emotional support. They may have to manage the family budget, collect prescriptions and help to administer medicine. They may accompany the person they are caring for to doctor and hospital appointments, and oversee their health and wellbeing.
They may also be looking after their siblings, pets and other family members to maintain and keep a household together. All of this is a tremendous responsibility for a young person to cope and live with.
The impact on young carers
Not surprisingly, there is a huge impact on young carers and their lives because of their caring responsibility.
Isolation and lack of social involvement
Many young carers feel lonely and isolated and can’t easily socialise. They often miss out on what other children their age are doing because of their caring role and may struggle to make and maintain friendships. They’ll miss attending social events and other activities. 23% of young carers feel their caring role had stopped them making friends and 2 in 3 young carers experience bullying in school. ** Young carers may have limited family and social networks, so they can feel like there is nobody for them to confide in and talk to. They may face stigma from their peers and others and not feel able to open up and talk about their situation or seek help.
A young carer’s mental health can be impacted – 45% of young carers report having a mental health problem.** 1 in 3 young carers say their caring role makes them feel stressed. They feel isolated and alone, unable to speak to anyone about what they are going through. In turn this often means that they cannot cope with the emotional impact of their caring role. There may be additional responsibilities and other life challenges, including bereavement and family breakdown, which adds to the issues of caring.
Young carers tell us that it is really important for them to have someone to talk to; they want to be able to speak to a trusted professional person but they often don’t know how to get help . ****
A young carer’s education can be greatly affected. Caring for someone can be very isolating, worrying and stressful for young carers as it is. Add schoolwork, homework, GCSE’s and further education into the mix and caring will have a more stressful and negative long-term effect on their education.
Young adult carers are four times more likely to have to drop out of their college or university course than other students. Many tell us that teachers lack of awareness about caring , which has a negative impact. Over 56% of young adult carers in college or university are struggling because of their caring role, with many having to drop out of education because of financial reasons. 24% of young adult carers in school say they cannot afford to go to college or university. **
The average number of school days missed or cut short as a result of a young person’s caring role is 48, and this will negatively impact their results. Young carers will achieve the equivalent of 9 grades lower at GCSE than their peers. *** Many will struggle with getting their homework done on time.
The knock-on effect is that future work opportunities and prospects for a young carer are reduced and impacted. Young adult carers are twice as likely to be Not in Education, Employment or Training (NEET) compared to young adults with no caring responsibilities.
A young carer’s life involves disruption and a degree of uncertainty because the person they are caring for may need help, support and/or medical treatment at any time of the day and night. They may have to deal with sudden crises and emergencies. Because of this unpredictability, young adult carers lose an average of 17 work days and experience disruption to 79 days each year.***
However, young carers do recognise that there are other options open to them in education. Carers aged 16-24 have the largest appetite for learning, and are most likely to say that part time study would be preferable for them whilst continuing in their caring role, as well as home tutorial support and full time study. *****
Looking to the future
Because caring is part of life and can be all-consuming, it may be difficult for a young carer to think beyond the situation that they are in. They will be focussing on the person they are caring for without any regard for their own needs, let alone ambitions and plans for the future.
Because a young carer puts the person they are caring for first, it makes it hard for them to consider themselves and their future.
The Children’s Society’s Hidden from View report found that the average annual income for families affected by ill health and disability, and where there is a young carer, is £5,000 less than other families.
A young adult carer may not be able to work and have an income because they are caring for someone full-time. Even part-time work may be a strain because of the unpredictability of caring and the need for flexibility with employment.
Lack of support
Although there is some support for young carers, it is not enough. There needs to be more awareness of young carers with the general public, Government, local authorities and health professionals, as well as young carers being aware that they are carers and can access support and services.
According to the Childrens’ Commissioner, 4 out of 5 young carers may not be receiving any support. When asked what are the most important types of service, the top three options for young carers are:
- Someone to talk to
- Emergency/crisis plan
- Mental health support
Many services are only funded to work with young carers up to the age of 18. In a survey, 79% of young carers said they were worried about moving on as they felt there was no support for them. *****
Caring through the pandemic
The pandemic has exacerbated these challenges that young carers face. More than half of young carers are experiencing an increase in their caring responsibilities. 58% of young carers are spending on average ten hours a week more on their caring responsibilities**. As a result of the increased pressures, two thirds of young carers feel stressed, 69% feel less connected and 40% say their mental health has worsened over the last six months.
We can help
If you are a young carer or know a young carer there is help available. Our Young Carers service is available for all young carers aged 5 to 17 years living, attending school or caring for someone in East Sussex. We also have a Young Adult Carers (YAC) service which is for young adults aged from 16 to 25 years old, offering groups, 1-to-1 advice and support and activities.
East Sussex Young Carers, provided by IMAGO, supports Young Carers aged 5-18. Find out more about their services here.
* Children’s Society
** Carers Trust 2019 and 2020
*** Learning and Work Institute
**** Young Carers Report, 2015,
***** Coping as a Carer (You Gov, Future Capital, 2019).
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