Young carers

Support, information and advice for carers aged under 18.

1 What does being a young carer mean?

Young carers are children and young people under 18 years old, who look after a member of the family who is sick, disabled, has mental health problems or is misusing drugs or alcohol.

Lots of children and young people want to help out and feel proud that they are lending a hand. At the same time the impact of these caring responsibilities may cause difficulties at home, school, college or elsewhere.

Sometimes it can be difficult to recognise someone as a young carer, but does this sound like your family or a family you know?

2 How we can support carers and families

When a young carer is referred to us we will contact them and arrange to meet with them to discuss their needs and develop a support plan.

This meeting usually takes place at home with their family. Or, as long as the child's parent or guardian agrees, we can meet at their school or another safe place. We may also call some families to discuss their needs over the phone.

Our priorities are to:

  • make sure the young carer is safe and being looked after
  • reduce the amount of caring a young person has to do if it is too much for them, by thinking about the needs of the whole family
  • help the young carer to get more support at school or college
  • make sure that the young carer gets a regular break and time for friends and fun
  • check that the young carer is supported by other adults and professionals in their lives
  • make sure that the young carer has someone to talk to when things are difficult
  • check that the family are receiving all the support or financial benefits available to them
  • improve the life opportunities of the young carer. 

3 Young Carers Family Service - eligibility criteria

The Young Carers Family Service (YCFS) work alongside other professionals, services and organisations to support young carers and their families in West Sussex. If the child/young person you are working with or parenting meets one or both of the criteria below then please make a request to our service by contacting us.

Definition of a young carer

A young carer is a young person under the age of 18 whose life is affected by the care needs of another person who may have any disability or long-term illness. This could be a family member or friend with a:

  • lifelong condition
  • physical or learning disability
  • serious injury
  • mental health problem
  • long term chronic health condition
  • addiction
  • frailty due to old age.

A young carer may be under 18 and caring for an adult(s) and/or under 18 and caring for a sibling(s).

Criteria 1 - Be under 18 and caring for an adult

(Young adult carers aged 18-25 can be supported by Carers Support West Sussex)

A child or young person must meet at least one of the following criteria to be eligible for our service:

The child/young person lives with or has a significant level of contact with a family member with a diagnosed disability or long-term illness, (including mental health issues, substance misuse, being elderly/frail), which results in a caring role (physical, practical or emotional) and/or which has a significant negative impact on the child/young person’s life.

For example:

  • Physical care - personal care, lifting, feeding, washing and dressing
  • Practical care - shopping, cooking, taking care of siblings, translating, managing finances (over and above age-appropriate tasks)
  • Emotional care - child/young person feels unable to leave cared for and is significantly impacted with school/college/university attendance and attainment or employment. Is socially isolated, is exposed to adult problems, feels responsible for keeping someone well, has a lack of understanding of the health needs of the cared leading to high levels of anxiety and worries
  • Impacted in other ways - there are significant problems in family relationships as a direct result of the cared for needs which impacts the child/young person.

Criteria 2 - Be under 18 and caring for a sibling/s

(Young adult carers aged 18-25 can be supported by Carers Support West Sussex)

The cared for sibling must have a formal diagnosis (referrals for siblings on a pathway or with an EHCP with no formal diagnosis will not be accepted).

The sibling carer must have significant caring responsibilities in relation to the cared for sibling. Examples of this includes:

  • Physical - personal care, lifting, feeding, washing and dressing
  • Emotional - witnessing recurring emergency medical interventions, regularly witnessing traumatic events, has a sibling with life-limiting illness.

The YCFS will not accept a Request for Service for a child or young person in the following circumstances:

  • The referrer does not have consent from the young person or their parent/guardians and have not asked them about what support they would like.
  • Caring responsibilities are not as a result of ill health or disability (for example, because parents are working or child is in a large family).
  • Tasks are age appropriate and/or not having a significant impact on the young person.
  • They are living with a person who is ill or disabled but are not providing care for that person.

The YCFS will not work with sibling carers undertaking a low to medium level of care.

Any professional or parent/guardian referral for a sibling carer in this category will be emailed a Sibling Carer Pack, which will provide information and resources which can be used to provide direct support to the young carer and their family.

This will include information regarding useful websites, tools, helplines, how to access youth groups in the local community and where to find other opportunities for respite from the caring role.

If you wish to check whether a child/young person is eligible for our service, please email for further guidance.

Criteria 3 - Mental health advisor support

To meet the criteria for Mental health advisor, the young carer would need to meet at least one of the above criteria’s relating to caring. In addition, they would also need to meet one of the below:

  • Historic/current self-harm or self-injury - The young carer has caused harm to themselves in response to intense emotional pain, thoughts or feelings.
  • Feelings or thoughts of suicide - The young carer has actively or has plans to take their own life/has disclosed thoughts around suicide.
  • Has the young carer presented in A&E? If so, are you aware of the latest admission and are they a current risk to themselves?

4 Contact us about a young carer

For us to start offering support we need someone to refer the young carer to us. This helps us understand the situation, decide what support may be needed and allocate a support worker to the young carer. 

Usually an adult will make a referral on behalf of a young person. This could be a teacher, social worker, another professional or one of the young person's parents.

It is important that whoever makes the referral has asked the family for permission to contact us and that they are happy for their information to be shared.

At this point we are also keen to know what support the family thinks would be useful.

To make a referral or contact us about a young carer, email or phone our Admin Team on 01903 270300.

5 Information for children and young people in a caring role

You can find out if you’re a young carer and what support you could get from us. Other things you can do are:

  • speak to your school - it may sound scary but we have found schools are incredibly supportive of young carers. They may be able to support you with getting homework or course work done, give you a time out card so you can get support when things are difficult or give you someone to talk to.
  • ask to be there when professionals are visiting your home - even if they are not coming to see you. If you are caring for someone, then professionals need to understand what it is you are doing. They may be able to offer more services so you don’t have to do so much. If you are going to provide care, then they can also make sure that this is safe. They need to make sure that you are not doing tasks which are too difficult or inappropriate, like heavy lifting.
  • speak to your parents or carers - it can be difficult to discuss how you feel with your parents, especially if it is them you care for, but communication is really important so that everyone understands each other. Let your parents know if things are becoming too difficult or if you are feeling stressed or upset. They won’t want you to feel this way, and together you may be able to come up with a solution.
  • speak to a youth worker - if you go to any youth groups or centres, the youth workers there will be a great source of information and support. So, have a chat to them about how things are for you.
  • speak to other family members - if they live close by, they may be able to help a little more. Even if they can’t help on a day-to-day basis, they may be able to provide a listening ear over the phone.

6 Information for parents

There are number of ways you can help your child if they are a young carer:

  • Speak to your child’s school, let them know your situation and ask them how they can help.
  • Speak to Adults' Services and make sure you are getting all the support available to you if you are disabled or unwell. It can be hard to accept help from others, but any additional support you can get will reduce the amount your child needs to do.
  • If you have a disabled child, Children’s Services has specialist teams who may be able to support you.
  • Make sure that any support offered to you takes into account your needs as a parent.
  • It is important that if your child is a carer that they have access to breaks and social opportunities. The Young Carers Family Service may be able to help with this.
  • If you are also a carer, contact your local Carers Support service. They can offer advice, support and breaks for you.

Planning for emergencies

  • Make plans for emergencies. It can be a worry for young people if they are not clear what will happen if someone’s health deteriorates, either in the short term or for longer.
  • It is important that young people know who to call in an emergency too, whether this is another family member or the emergency services. 

7 Volunteering with us

The Young Carers Family Service has a strong commitment to involving volunteers. It has been awarded the Queens Award for Voluntary Service, the equivalent of an MBE and the highest accolade for volunteers and volunteer involving projects.

Our mentoring project and a transport service both hold the ‘Investing in Volunteers’ award, and the mentoring project has the Approved Provider Standard for safe and effective mentoring.

You do not need to have worked with young carers or young people to volunteer as we provide training and ongoing support. For both roles, you will need:

  • a genuine interest in young people
  • to be reliable, trustworthy, honest and assertive
  • to have good communication skills
  • to be sensitive to the needs of young carers
  • to have a good sense of humour
  • to be able to commit to 12 months in the role.

Volunteers receive reimbursement for travel and agreed out-of-pocket expenses.

Learn why our volunteers give up their time and how rewarding they find it.

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Mentoring project

Mentors help young carers achieve their goals and improve their life opportunities. 

We match people based on:

  • the mentor's skills, knowledge, life experience and interests
  • what the young person wants to achieve.

The mentor and mentee then meet in the local community once a week for 1-2 hours, for six months.

Transport service

The transport service offers freedom and independence to young people who may be socially and geographically isolated. Being able to attend local, weekly groups can often help build their self-esteem, confidence and support networks.

Volunteers are linked up with a local group and a youth worker with responsibility for running regular groups and activity days for young carers. They provide door-to-door transport in their own car for young carers who would not be able to access groups and other positive activities.

You will need:

  • to be available for about 3 hours on one evening a week during term time
  • to be a safe and competent driver
  • your own fully insured vehicle
  • a full driving licence.


If you are interested in applying to be a mentor or transport volunteer in your area and would like more information or to register your interest, please email

8 Useful resources

  • West Sussex Services for Education portal
    • Identifying and supporting young carers in schools
    • Quick guide to setting up a young carers group in your school
    • Young carers in school poster
    • Helping hands film for use with primary school learning resources
    • Out of time – a day in the life of a young carer at school - film for use with secondary school learning resources.
  • Carers Trust - works to improve support, services and recognition for anyone living with the challenges of caring, unpaid, for a family member or friend who is ill, frail, disabled or has mental health or addiction problems.
  • Sibs - for brothers and sisters of disabled children.
  • The Children’s Society - raise awareness of young carers needs, campaign for policy change, support schools, and work to see that these young people get the future and support they deserve.
  • YoungMinds - committed to improving the wellbeing and mental health of children and young people.
  • Think Carer - A call to action - video about identifying and listening to carers and signposting them for support if required.
  • Volunteering with children and young people - volunteering roles supporting children and young people.
Last updated:
24 June 2024
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