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Young Carers


Contents

  1. Definition
  2. Recognition
  3. Response

    Further Information

    Amendments to this Chapter


1. Definition

Working Together to Safeguard Children (2015) defines a young carer as a person under 18 who provides, or intends to provide, care for another person (of any age, except generally where that care is provided for payment, pursuant to a contract or as voluntary work).

A more detailed definition is provided by the Blackwell Encyclopaedia of Social Work: “Children or young persons under 18 who provide or intend to provide care, assistance or support to another family member. They carry out, often on a regular basis, significant or substantial caring tasks and assume a level of responsibility which would normally be associated with an adult”. The nature of the care provided by young carers can be very broad and includes:

  • Undertaking household tasks beyond what would normally be expected, including sibling care;
  • General care such as administering medication or lifting a parent;
  • Translating and helping a parent learn English;
  • Providing emotional support;
  • Providing intimate care such as toileting or bathing.

The amount of time a young carer spends in these tasks can vary depending on the nature of the help and support required. Therefore, young carers do not form a homogenous group with clearly defined or uniform responsibilities.

The amount or type of care does not predict how far the health or well-being of the young carer may be affected. This can depend on factors such as family structure and support available from relatives and other sources. However, caring can lead to a variety of losses for the young carer.


2. Recognition

Research has found that many young carers experience:

  • Low level of school attendance;
  • Some educational difficulties;
  • Social isolation;
  • Conflict between loyalty to family and their wish to have their own needs met (with resulting guilt);
  • Great feelings of responsibility resulting in anxiety;
  • Physical tiredness owing to lifting or helping with housework;
  • Worry about parent’s health and future well-being;
  • Anxiety resulting from having to communicate with services or authorities on behalf of a parent;
  • Coping with a parent’s changes in mood, unpredictability or difficulties in parenting;
  • Feelings of embarrassment or shame at having a relative with problems;
  • Feelings of anger, low self esteem or depression;
  • Behavioural difficulties such as self harming, eating disorders or substance misuse.

Not all young carers would recognise themselves as such. Similarly, not all children whose parent/ sibling is ill or disabled is a young carer.


3. Response

The Children and Families Act 2014 extended the entitlement to an assessment to all young carers under the age of 18 regardless of who they care for or the type and frequency of this care.

A local authority must carry out a young carer's needs assessment where:

  • It appears to the authority that the young carer may have needs for support; or
  • The authority receives a request from the young carer or a parent of the young carer to assess the young carer’s needs for.

The assessment needs to take into account:

  • The young carer’s age, understanding and family circumstances;
  • The wishes, feelings and preferences of the young carer;
  • Any differences of opinion between the young carer, the young carer’s parents and the person cared for, with respect to the care which the young carer provides (or intends to provide); and
  • The outcomes the young carer seeks from the assessment.

Before the assessment starts, the local authority must provide clear information about the manner and form of the assessment to:

  • The young carer;
  • The person cared for;
  • The young carer’s parents;
  • Any other person whom the young carer or a parent of the young carer requests should participate in the assessment.

The assessment must determine the following:

  • The amount, nature and type of care which the young carer provides (or intends to provide);
  • The extent to which this care is (or will be) relied upon by the family, including the wider family, to maintain the well-being of the person cared for;
  • Members of the extended family or friends, and how they can contribute to any identified outcomes;
  • Whether the care which the young carer provides (or intends to provide) impacts on the young carer’s well-being, education and development;
  • Whether any of the tasks which the young carer is performing (or intends to perform) when providing care are excessive or inappropriate for the young carer to perform having regard to all the circumstances, and in particular the carer’s age, sex, wishes and feelings;
  • Whether any of the young carer’s needs for support could be prevented by providing services to - (i) the person cared for, or (ii) another member of the young carer’s family;
  • What the young carer’s needs for support would be likely to be if the carer were relieved of part or all of the tasks the young carer performs (or intends to perform) when providing care;
  • Whether any other assessment of the needs for support of the young carer or the person cared for has been carried out;
  • Whether the young carer is a Child in Need;
  • Any actions to be taken as a result of the assessment;
  • The arrangements for a future review.

Furthermore, the local authority must consider the impact of the needs of the young carer’s family on the well-being of the young carer and any child in that family and, in particular, on their education and personal and emotional development.

The local authority must also take into account the outcome of any other assessment already undertaken in regard to the young carer, the person cared for or a member of the young carer’s family, as well as combine a young carer’s assessment with any other assessment being undertaken.

If any agency is concerned that the young carer is at serious risk of neglect, abuse or harm, this must be referred to Children's Social Care under the Contacts and Referrals with Children’s Social Care Procedure. The response should be the same as for any other child. Where appropriate a Strategy Discussion / Meeting will be held.

Unless there is reason to believe that it would put the child at risk, young carers should be told if there is a need to make a referral, in order that their trust in a worker is retained - see Effective Communication Consent and Information Sharing Procedure. If possible, the young carer's consent should be sought through a discussion of why the referral must be made and possible outcomes.

In those situations where the child does not give consent, but it is still considered necessary to make a referral, s/he should be kept informed of all decisions made, and offered support throughout.

Professionals should work with parents to refer them to appropriate services, which would help reduce the level of responsibilities on the young carer. Staff should follow up referrals, to find out whether or not parents have engaged with such services, or whether the family continues to be isolated. If they have not attended, work should be undertaken with the parents to address their concerns about engaging with services in order to improve the circumstances both for the young carer and themselves.


Further Information

Barnardos Hull and East Riding Young Carers Project

The Young Carer’s (Needs Assessment) Regulations (DOE, March 2015)

Amendments to this Chapter

This chapter was updated in June 2015, to provide detail on assessments of young carers which were introduced by the Children and Families Act 2014. All young carers under 18 are entitled to such assessments, regardless of who they care for or the type and frequency of this care.

The assessment should take into account:

  • The young carer’s age, understanding and family circumstances;
  • The wishes, feelings and preferences of the young carer;
  • Any differences of opinion between the young carer, the young carer’s parents and the person cared for, with respect to the care which the young carer provides (or intends to provide); and
  • The outcomes the young carer seeks from the assessment.

End.