‘Young carers’ are young people under the age of 18 who share caring responsibility for an adult or another young person within the household or family. It is the Council’s aim to promote the health and wellbeing of young carers and their families by preventing and protecting children and young people from undertaking excessive and inappropriate caring roles and responsibilities. Young carers also need to access support services, some specific to their needs, others the same as support needed by all young people.
A young carer becomes vulnerable when the level of care-giving and responsibility to the person in need of care becomes excessive or inappropriate for that child, risking impacting on his or her emotional or physical well-being or educational achievement and life chances.
No care package should rely on a young person taking on an inappropriate caring role that may damage their health or put their education at risk. Determining ‘excessive or inappropriate care’ will vary according to a child’s age, level and impact of caring.
What do we know?
Young people become young adults at an age that varies from individual to individual. During this period their involvement in education, work, social and recreational activities will change. Their involvement and role as a ‘carer’ may also change over this time. When in childhood, support for young carers tend to focus on the impact of the caring role has on the individual.
It is important that the services that support them – co-ordinated by Children Young People & Learning (CYP&L) until the age of 18 and Adult Social Care Housing and Health (ASCHH) over this age – are able to provide a continuity of support over this period and help the young person/adult make the right choices for them as individuals, knowing fully the information and options available to them.
Facts, figures and trends
There are estimated to be between 300 and 500 young carers in the Borough. The young carers’ service is accessible to all and strives to make contact with, and engage, as many young carers as possible. One challenge is identifying young carers who may not recognise their caring responsibilities or, if they do, perceive them to be an issue or do not wish to be identified as a young carer.
The current service has 88 families on the books that are targeted with direct support, phone support, email and text support. In total the project has now reached over 100 young people. On a weekly basis the project is supporting up to 20+ young people, at a mix of junior and senior clubs, supporting young carers to cope with their emotions around their caring role. 780 individual emotional support sessions were held in 2012/13.
National & local strategies (current best practices)
Vision included in the ‘Recognised, valued and supported: Next steps for the Carers Strategy’: “Carers will be universally recognised and valued as being fundamental to strong families and stable communities. Support will be tailored to meet individuals’ needs, enabling carers to maintain a balance between their caring responsibilities and a life outside caring, while enabling the person they support to be a full and equal citizen.” (HM Government, 2008)
Think Local, Act Personal highlights the integral part that support for carers and a whole family approach play in further development, in bringing together health, well-being and social care, councils and their partners.
Bracknell Forest Council directorates Adult Social Care, Housing and Health (ASCHH) and Children Young People & Learning (CYP&L) signed a memorandum of understanding in December 2011 to work together to best address the needs of young carers and their families.
It is essential, where services are working with families that we should ensure that the needs of dependent children in the family, including those who may be assisting with caring, are recognised. This means taking account of their hopes, aspirations, strengths and achievements and the need for advice and support for all the family.
Central issues are recognition, identification, adverse impact and support.
What are the key inequalities?
- 11 of the 88 young carers participating in club sessions have a known disability
- 88% of the 88 young carers participating in the club sessions are White British which is slightly higher than what might be expected. 7% are from a mixed ethnic background broadly in line with expectations
- 62% of young carers known to the current service (in school contacts and attending club sessions) are female.
- The majority of young carers are between the ages of 10 and 17. Fewer are aged less than 10. This distribution is to be expected.
- The service needs to impact on those from lower incomes.
- The new service is required to be inclusive to reach out to minority and disadvantaged communities.
- The new service recognises that young carers should not be discriminated against as a result of being in association with the named groups e.g. parent with a disability or a drugs problem.
- Sexuality plays a key role in understanding young carers’ boundaries and this is discussed at club sessions
What are the unmet needs/ service gaps?
- reach more young carers
- active recruitment of young people with protected characteristics who are also acting as carers; how they can be reached, which services need contacting as an example
- enable and support young carers to access further mainstream youth activities, provision and associated activities
- enhance links with adult services in relation to areas such as mental health, substance misuse and transition to adulthood
- sharpen assessment of fulfilment of objectives
- progress development of the Young Carers’ Management Committee
Recommendations for consideration by other key organisations
- It could be suggested that Clinical Commissioning Groups should encourage GPs to consider whole-family implications of clients who visit them.
- There would be considerable value in ensuring that the assessments take into account of the whole family and use a whole family pathway. The different responsibilities of parents and child should be recognised and they include the needs of young carers.
- It could be suggested that young carers are continuously monitored to ensure that they are not undertaking excessive amounts of work and that they are emotionally satisfied with their situation.