Dates: April 2020 - June 2020
Research Team: Dr Kate Blake-Holmes, School of Social Work, University of East Anglia, CRCF, in conjunction with Caring Together.
Young carers are often marginalised, their voices unheard, and their needs unrecognised. It is therefore vital to raise awareness of these concerns in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. There are an estimated 800,000 children under the age of 18 in the UK who come within the Care Act 2014 and Children and Families Act 2014 definition of providing excessive and/or inappropriate care. These young people provide essential care for their families, often 24 hours a day and over the course of their whole childhood. This can have a detrimental impact on their own social, economic and educational wellbeing as well as their physical and mental health, which may carry forward into adulthood.
The study aims to benefit young carers during the COVID-19 pandemic in the following ways:
Increase the recognition of young people providing care and of the impact of service changes on young carers.
Capture the current views of young carers to inform urgent and effective support needs.
Continue to raise awareness of young carers, particularly within educational settings which can be a sanctuary and a safeguard. As schools reopen, teachers need to be mindful that some of their class may be young carers. They need to give careful consideration to the support they require to return to school and re-establish themselves within the curriculum, using the young person themselves to create an individualised plan.
From a social care perspective, the stipulation of both the Care Act 2014 and the Children and Families Act 2014 that no child should undertake inappropriate and/or excessive care should be given additional weight within this health crisis. Any child under the age of 18 living with a parent or sibling with substantial disability, physical health needs or mental ill health should be automatically regarded as a young carer and supported accordingly.
The work of young carers’ organisations such as Caring Together are crucial for the health and wellbeing of carers. They are able to respond to young carers’ needs in a flexible and proactive manner without the potential stigma of some statutory services. The value of their work should be recognised and funded.
Young carers’ voices are central to understanding the impact of these responsibilities. Young carers should be involved in all aspects of research, as well as policy and service development.