Today, Wednesday 15th March, marks Young Carers Action Day, which recognises the unique challenges faced by some of our young people and helps to raise awareness of the support that is needed for these children and young adults.
A young carer is defined as a young person who is aged 25 or under and who takes on caring responsibilities for a loved one (a family member or friend) who would otherwise be unable to cope with daily living. This may be due to mental illness, physical disability, terminal illness, or other illness or addiction.
This year, a number of charities are coming together to help to make early identification, intervention and support for young carers a priority. As carers.org states ‘Over the past decade, young carers and young adult carers have acquired a variety of specific legal rights and their needs acknowledged in statutory guidance and national policy to ensure they are identified and get the support that they need.’
Reading this, perhaps you are:
- A teacher or member of staff in school who are looking for ways to support your young carers
- A parent who has a child or young adult of your own who acts in a caring capacity
- A friend or relative of a young carer
- A young carer yourself, or know a friend who is
- An adult who was once a young carer
- A member of the community interested in raising better support for young carers
Here at The Youth Fairy, we are always on the lookout for topics we can help to raise awareness of that regularly affect many of our young people. Our hope with this week’s blog is to spread the important work these special charities do and to signpost you to further information and guidance so you can find ways to get involved in better supporting this group of young people if this is a subject that is close to your heart.
Being a young carer brings a unique responsibility and can affect the mental health and well-being of young people in a number of ways, including:
- Finding it difficult to juggle the demands of caring and their own education or career path
- Affecting relationships with family, friends and peers
- Feelings of loneliness and isolation
- Mixed feelings about caring for a loved one – the balance between loving and wanting to look after a loved one or close friend, whilst wanting and having needs, dreams and desires of their own
- Feeling they are missing out on their childhood and teenage years
- Feeling invisible, like their own needs and wants are unimportant
- Having poor boundaries in their relationships
- Frequent worrying about the loved one they care for
- Leading to feelings of stress, anxiety and depression
In the words of a young carer interviewed by carers.org, it is important to remember that being a carer “is not a choice, it’s just something I do.” This perfectly sums up the sometimes-overwhelming feeling of responsibility our young carers can feel. No child chooses to be a young carer, in the same way a loved one doesn’t consciously choose this responsibility for their child or young adult – the situation often just is.
But this doesn’t mean young carers have to face this responsibility alone.
According to interviews conducted by caringtogether.org, young carers would like to see:
- Greater awareness in schools such as feeling like they have someone to tell or talk to. This includes not only staff but circles of friends with other young carers who can meet together to relate with each other on their own specific challenges that being a young carer brings
- Raising awareness, such as in assemblies and in the community or in college
- Open and honest communication, including being treated as the responsible young carer that they are
- Some teachers being more aware that they do not have as much free time as other students for things such as homework and so, more support with this
- Flexibility in how they are treated as they do not feel like other students their age
- A place where they can relax and have some time for themselves
The full interviews can be found here: https://www.caringtogether.org/support-for-carers/young-carers/young-carers-action-day/
So, how can you get involved today, on Young Carers Action Day 2023?
If you would like to get involved in raising more awareness of young carers and the help and support that is available to them, visit:
www.caringtogether.org for a wealth of information, including planned events that offer respite time for young carers. Or call the caring together helpline on 0345 241 0954 for help and support.
www.carersuk.org which offers advice about the support that is available for carers and young carers, including financial support
www.carers.org.uk which provides a wealth of advice, support and information, including careers advice, what to do in an emergency, legal support and much more. It also signposts you to a range of other charities.
Young carers have hopes and dreams of their own, and with the right awareness and support, them realising these dreams can feel not only important but achievable.