Young carers 'isolated, stressed and exhausted' as charity calls for more support

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Two children in every classroom are taking on some form of caring responsibility at home, according to a charity calling for more support for young carers.

The Carers Trust says thousands of young carers across the UK are feeling "lonely", "exhausted", and "burned out" after the pandemic forced more children to cover caring responsibilities for family members.

In Bedfordshire, 900 young carers are supported by the charity's branch in the county, but schools say the number of children caring at home could be higher.

Emma Wilson, who is interim head teacher at Camestone School in Kempston, said: "We have a number of children in the school who are young carers and we suspect that there are more who haven't been identified as young carers."

Amy Thomas is a young carer. Her younger sister has a neurological condition, which means Amy helps out with her care.

It can mean Amy has to sacrifice things which other children her age would not.

She said: "I have to stay at home with her, sometimes call an ambulance.

"It takes a lot of toll. You've constantly got to be at the top of your game and sometimes it is putting the person you're caring for's needs in front of yours.

"Sometimes I might not be happy. Sometimes I might have to sacrifice my social life."

Her parents were on the front line during the height of the pandemic, which meant Amy had to do more at home as Covid hit.

"Especially in lockdown, both my parents were key workers. I had to step up again," she said.

"For two years I was, for five or six hours a day, trying to help my sister and became her main primary carer." 

Figures from the Carers Trust say that:

  • More than half (53%) of young carers and young adult carers said the amount of time they spend caring per week had increased in the past year;

  • At least a third of respondents said their caring role resulted in them either always or usually feeling worried’ (36%), lonely (33%) or stressed (42%);

  • 52% of young carers and young adult carers responding to the survey said they never or not often received support from their school, college or university in balancing study with their caring role.

Hannah cares for her mum, who is disabled

Hannah is a Year Six pupil at Camestone Primary school. She looks after her mum who is disabled.

She said: "Some days are harder than others... When the people who we are looking after are in pain and stuff. But some days are a lot better".

The charity Carers in Bedfordshire said many children did not know they were young carers, because they had been born into a situation where they cared for a parent or sibling with a disability or illness.

Janice Styles, from the charity, said: "They've never known any different so they've been caring for quite a young age.

"So when they've come into school it's also their refuge as well. They get away from caring. They have some respite from caring."