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Young Carers Awareness Day: support links for carers

Many young carers are unaware of the support services in place to help them. Credit: ITV News

Today is Young Carers Awareness Day, an annual event led and organised by Carers Trust.

To mark the day, we invited Gareth Howells, CEO of the Carers Trust, to reflect on how we can all do more to support young carers.

Read his blog for ITV News Central below.

Gareth Howells, the CEO of Carers Trust Credit: Carers Trust

Blog by Gareth Howells, the CEO of Carers Trust.

Why young carers need our support - Blog by Gareth Howells, the CEO of Carers Trust.

Even though today is Young Carers Awareness Day it’s possible that you’re asking yourself “Who are young carers? And why is it so important to make sure they are supported?”

Well, young carers are young people aged up to 18 years old, who need to look after someone in their family, or a friend, who is ill, disabled or misuses drugs or alcohol.

And even though I was a young carer myself, I still find it hard sometimes to comprehend how they manage to do that while keeping up with schoolwork, exams and all the other pressures of teenage life.

Many schoolchildren find it hard enough to go home and get their homework done. So imagine what it must be like for young people who have to cope with a whole range of caring duties before they can even sit down to their books – tasks that many adults would struggle with.

It could be emotional support for a sibling with severe autism, helping to wash a severely-disabled parent unable to get out of bed alone, administering medication, or even ensuring household bills are paid.

Whichever way you look at it, these are remarkable young people. And there’s a huge number of them. Research shows that as many as one in five children in secondary education provide care at home. That suggests there could over one million young carers in the UK!

So you’d think that we’d know all about young carers - and be doing whatever we can to support them.

Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as that. All too often schools and local authorities lack the resources to be able to identify young carers.

And if schools don’t know that someone is a young carer, they won’t understand why homework may not get completed, or why they are sometimes late for school. This is how the very particular needs of young carers can go unsupported.

The consequences couldn’t be more serious. Research shows young carers on average achieve nine grades lower in their public exams than their peers who do not have caring responsibilities. And that of course has knock-on effects for their future life prospects.

So this is why Carers Trust has made Count Me In! the theme for this year’s Young Carers Awareness Day. We want schools to work to identify young carers at an early stage so appropriate support can be put in place. We also want them to recognise young carers as a group of learners who require additional recognition and support so they can engage in their education and go on to lead enjoyable, fulfilled lives.

As we mark Young Carers Awareness Day today it’s great to see that some support is already in place. Take the Carers Action Plan (CAP), for example. As part of the Plan, Carers Trust was commissioned by the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) to write Identification Practice of Young Carers in England.

This in turn builds on the Children and Families Act 2014 which places a duty on local authorities to take ‘reasonable steps’ to identify young carers in their area who have support needs.

But as welcome as this work is, we cannot leave it there. With hundreds of thousands of young carers across the UK struggling to balance the pressures of school and their caring role, none of us can sit back and wait for government and local authorities to come up with a solution on their own.

We all need to play our part in looking out for young carers and making sure their circumstances at home are understood so they can thrive in the classroom and go on to lead the fulfilling and happy lives that every young person deserves".