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Number of young carers much higher than previously thought

Number of young carers much higher than previously thought: new research shows that there may be more than 800,000 young carers aged 11-16 years old in England - much more than previously thought.

The University of Nottingham and BBC News carried out a survey where 22 per cent of young people said they were young carers. Nearly a third 32% of those children are responsible for a high level caring.

If the results reflect the country as a whole, it would mean that over 800,000 secondary school children aged 11-16 years in England are having to care for someone at home who has an illness or disability.

Professor Stephen Joseph, from the School of Education at the University of Nottingham, who conducted the research, said: "Our research suggests that approximately 7% of young people have a significant caring role in the home for an ill or disabled relative.

"Most frequently caring by a young person is for a mother or a sibling, with a physical disability. Caring activity consisted mostly of domestic activities, household management, and emotional care. Being a young carer can affect attendance and performance at school

"It is important that young carers are given the support they need so that their lives are not adversely affected by these experiences. Educators and all those who work with young people need to be aware of the difficulties faced by young carers," he added.

The 2011 census – which is completed by the adults in the household - only identified 166,000 young carers in England and Wales between the age of 5-17 years. The new findings are the clearest and most current picture of the number of children who have to care for someone at home in England.

Emma James, Senior Policy and Research Officer, Barnardo’s said: "We know that the census statistics were massively under representative of the number of children and young people in this country undertaking caring roles in their homes, and it is a travesty in the 21st century that there are children and young people that are the main carers for their parents."

Respondents to the survey were most likely to be caring for their mother - 46% - or their siblings - 40%. Children cited physical illness most frequently, as their reason for caring, followed by long term illness. Mental health was also given as a reason for caring and 6% highlighted drug or alcohol problems as the reason for giving care.

Girls were more likely to be carers than boys with 59% of respondents being female and 37% were male. The remainder of the respondents did not state their gender.

In June the government’ launched a two-year Carers Action Plan which included details of increased support in education and health services for young carers and funding for an identification project involving the Carers Trust.

It highlighted that The Children and Families Act 2014 extended the right to a needs assessment for all young carers.

Improved identification of young carers, to enable assessments that identify support needs alongside flexible educational opportunities are vital to providing support so that young carers are able to access opportunities and have the same life chances as other young people without caring responsibilities.

Campaigners and charities have warned that while local authorities have a duty to assess young carers, follow up help is often lacking.

Emma James said: "We're seeing an increase in identification in some areas but then a decrease in support that's being provided because the funds aren't there or being invested in the right places.

"We do welcome the actions within the Action Plan…but what we're not seeing is that preventative work. Children shouldn't be undertaking these caring roles in the first place so why are these families not getting the support they need?

"There's a problem there, it's scandalous and the government needs to be looking more into the social care that's been provided to these families," she concluded.


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