'We are struggling': The young people caring through the pandemic amid calls for parity with NHS

Watch the video report by ITV Wales reporter Ian Lang

Young carers are calling for more help, recognition and overall support for those working in a care capacity in Wales.

It comes as the Senedd Health, Social Care and Sport Committee has argued that carers in Wales - both paid and unpaid - should be treated equally and on the same terms as NHS staff.

Charlie Kinchington, an 18-year-old who cares for his young autistic brother, said he felt he was losing his sense of identity during the pandemic.

"There needs to be something out there or a little bit of education about us [carers]," he said.

"For employers, for the general public, just so that everybody knows because at this present moment in time we feel like we've had a loss of identity because we are literally doing all this behind closed doors.

"We are struggling, there's no two ways about it we are struggling."

The Committee said the coronavirus pandemic had shown that unpaid carers, young carers and those working in social care settings such as care homes needed greater help and support.

Some young carers were having to use food banks due to struggling financially, the Committee also found.

Those working in a social care capacity should now be treated equally with NHS staff in terms of pay, conditions and how their work is perceived, the Committee said.

Some carers were reliant on food banks the Committee found Credit: PA Images

Calling for greater support for unpaid carers, a Committee spokesperson said, "Unpaid carers are the cornerstone of community care, responsible for delivering the vast majority of care in Wales and that without them, the social care system would face collapse.

"This is an issue the Committee has been highlighting for many years, and it is clear that even before the pandemic, unpaid carers were struggling with demands on them, such as exhaustion, physical and mental health problems, anxiety, isolation from friends and family and a feeling of lost identity.

"Members of the Committee are concerned about the pressures on unpaid carers and are calling for Welsh Government Ministers and carers organisations to develop more creative ways of delivering respite and short breaks for unpaid carers."

The Committee called for greater support for young carers, many of whom it found were struggling with their mental health

The mental wellbeing of young carers was also a concern raised.

Referencing a recent survey, it said members were "extremely concerned" for many young carers and their mental state, especially during lockdown.

"The Committee is clear that problems that already existed for young carers have been greatly exacerbated by home-schooling and the loss of opportunities for young carers to socialise with their peers during the pandemic."

It has now called on the Welsh Government to provide sustainable funding for young carer services and for a safe return to face-to-face support services.

The social care sector needed parity with the work of the NHS, the Committee said

It also highlighted that carers were feeling a significant strain on their finances, with more than a quarter of carers having difficulty making their money go far enough.

There are calls for those involved in any kind of social care to be given equal treatment to those working in the NHS Credit: PA Images

Some care homes are continuing to prevent visits and this was having a detrimental impact on residents and their families, the Committee said.

It called on the Welsh Government to work with the sector to ensure homes are allowing safe visits as much as possible.

Dr Dai Lloyd MS, Chair of the Senedd’s Health, Social Care and Sport Committee said, "Unlike the NHS, which everyone will have accessed at some point in their lives, the social care sector is largely invisible except to those who need its support; to them it is invaluable.

"COVID-19 has brought to the forefront the massive contribution our social care workforce makes in keeping our most vulnerable citizens safe.

"It has also highlighted the need for reforms and a long-term, sustainable funding arrangement for social care that has long been talked about and is long overdue.

"It’s time for care workers to be put on an equal footing with NHS workers, both in their employment terms and conditions and the way in which they are perceived."

The Welsh Government said the social care field would need to be a "a key area of focus" for whoever is elected to govern after the election Credit: PA Images

Speaking at a recent plenary session, Health Minister Vaughan Gething said the Government was actively working to support those working in a care capacity and that could include the introduction of a real living wage.

He said, "Support for the real living wage would be consistent with our fair work agenda.

"We are working, as part of the social care work forum, to consider what else can be done to help make social care a more attractive place to work.

"Fundamentally, the demographic facing Wales means matters explored by the group cannot be left unaddressed.

"The next Government will need to retain this as a key area of focus."

Read more: