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Supporting young carers and their families

An introductory guide for professionals

This booklet is designed to raise awareness of young carers. It explains assessment entitlement and presents suggestions for good practice given by young carers and those who work with them and highlights useful resources for practitioners. Further information relating specifically to young carers in specific circumstances is available at youngcarer.com/resources

Research shows that young carers are no more likely than their peers to come into contact with support services, despite Government recognition that this needs to happen. There are many reasons why young carers may remain unsupported, taking on levels of care which are inappropriate for their age. These include:

  • The structure of the family itself and the level of care needs.
  • The nature of the illness or disability, including speed of onset, its acceptability, or whether it is an episodic illness.
  • A lack of effective services from outside the family if the person does not meet eligibility criteria or the services are inflexible.
  • Young carers may not be identified as a ‘child in need’ until crisis is reached.
  • Lack of information-sharing between children’s and adults’ services and poor joint working with other professionals such as teachers and health services.
  • Some young carers are very loyal to their parents and would feel guilty asking for help.
  • Some young carers go to great lengths to conceal the illness, particularly where there is a mental illness, substance dependency,
  • HIV or other blood-borne viruses, because they fear the stigma associated with it.

Some families may not know about the services or support available to them. Some may be reluctant to acknowledge children’s caring roles or involve agencies in their family situations, as they fear family break-up.

Young carers and the needs of the person for whom they are caring may only be identified when there is a crisis. Even then, the extent of the child’s caring role and the impact that it has on their own development may not be recognised quickly or fully assessed, with the result that families may not receive the services they require soon enough.

Additionally, parents whose personal care needs are assessed do not always have their parenting needs taken into consideration.

The key to change is the development of a whole-family approach and for all agencies – including children’s and adult’s services – to work together to offer coordinated assessments and services to the child and the whole family.