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 Tell 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.
4 Guidance for young carers
- 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.
5 Guidance 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 Carer’s team 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.
6 Volunteering with us
The Young Carers team has a strong commitment to involving volunteers and doing this through our mentoring project and transport service. We recently received the ‘Investing in Volunteers’ award, recognising the quality of our work in this area, 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.
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.
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 and would like more information, or to register your interest, please get in touch.
7 Further information
- Identifying and Supporting Young Carers in Schools - a learning resource for school staff and students.
- 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.