Young carers - who are they?

Pinky promise!

05 / 5 / 2015 10.16am

A young carer is someone under 18 who regularly helps look after someone in their family, or a friend, who is ill, disabled or misuses drugs or alcohol. This list is adapted from what Carers Trust say about young carers and their caring role:

  • staying in the house to look after the disabled or older person, and providing emotional support
  • helping the disabled or older person to get up, washed or dressed, or helping with toileting
  • doing household chores including shopping, cleaning and cooking
  • looking after younger brothers and sisters
  • ensuring prescribed medication is taken.

While most children and young people help out around the house, young carers often take on excessive or inappropriate caring roles. It is important to understand why a child is taking on a caring role and what needs to change to enable them to be children and young people first so that they have the same opportunities as their peers. 

How can you help to support young carers?

NHS Employers worked with Carers Trust and Carers Support Centre, Bristol and South Gloucestershire to ask some young carers what simple actions NHS employees can take to support them and their families, these were identified as:

Having greater awareness and recognition for the role

Could you identify a young carer/young adult carer? Could you refer a young carer to sources of support?

Do this by:

  • asking them what care they provide - how do they support the patient/service user? By understanding the history of the patient and their carer you will have a better understand of the needs of the patient/service users
  • asking them know what resources are available for a young carer – there are many organisations offering carers advice and support – do you know who they are?

Supporting the young carers’ own health and wellbeing needs

Young carer/young adult carer need support with their own health and their own space to discuss their needs. There are barriers getting in the way of their health and wellbeing needs, it is therefore important that:

  • carers feel supported – is there someone in your trust that understands their needs and could talk to them? 
  • they are kept updated - give them information on the medical needs of the person/s they care for you try and stop them from over worrying. Mental health issues in young carers are very common. They often don’t get a break to stop and think about their own health and wellbeing. If you see any signs that they might need some support – it is important to know who you can refer them to.

Giving them information they need and a chance to ask questions

Respect what the young carer/young adult carer knows. They live with the patient/service user and fully understand their needs. It’s important that:

  • you make young carers feel that they can ask any questions – there are no such things as silly questions
  • speak to them - ensure that they also understand what is happening and why. 

Listen and support

Are you confident that you would know how to support a young carer/young adult carer?

They are knowledgeable - give them the chance to share their knowledge with you by:

  • listening and learning from them
  • putting yourself in their shoes – how would you like to be treated?
  • understanding that they need their childhood – what support is there for them?

Further information

Carers trust offers information on what a young carer is and where they can obtain further support and respite from their caring responsibilties, by taking part in activities, outings and receiving one to one support.

Young Carers is a dedicated website and online support service designed speficially for young carers. It includes a safe chat window where young carers can talk to other young carers in a similar position, a buddying scheme for new members, and one-to-one support sessions for carers who need extra support. 

The young carers call to action was held in October 2014. It was an opportunity for young carers to influence strategic leaders and policy makers regarding the impact of the caring role on the health and wellbeing of young people.  

The ‘Pinky Promise’ video is a video of pledges to support young carers, from leaders such as Simon Stevens, Chief Executive of NHS England and Sue Covill, Director of Development and Employment, NHS Employers.

Carers Trust Professionals provides information and resources for health and social care professionals in order to support the carers they work with. 

The young carers school nurse pathway provides the key messages for health care professionals to meet the needs of young carers. It sets out a clear pathway for healthcare workers, specifically school nurses, to help support young carers and care for their health and wellbeing.

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