7 Jan 2011

Almost half of the young carers who took part in a new national survey conducted by The Children’s Society and ITV’s Tonight programme said they had too much responsibility for their age.
Many feel they have lost out on their childhood and find the burden of caring for sick parents an impossibly heavy load. Others are terrified to ask the authorities for help in case they are taken away from the parents they love.

The poll was highlighted on Tonight’s 'Too Much Too Young' programme (January 6). It found that of the 364 young carers questioned:

  • 43 per cent of young carers say they have too much responsibility for their age
  • 30 per cent of young carers are under 10 years-old
  • More than two-thirds (67 per cent) said being a young carer made them feel stressed
  • Half (52 per cent) said that being a young carer had a negative effect on their school work
  • A fifth (20 per cent) said they had been bullied because of their caring role
  • More than two-thirds (68 per cent) said being a young carer made them feel 'depressed'.

The survey was conducted with The Children’s Society’s National Young Carers Forum that gives support for young carers to get help and make changes for themselves and their families.

The programme investigated the real life problems faced by young carers. ITV1 spent a day with one young carer to begin to understand the level of care she is undertaking. When asked how old she felt she said “I feel much older than 12, I feel at least 28”.

Many of the children interviewed said that they constantly worry about the person they are caring for, that their school work suffers and that they were unable to have a normal childhood because they were often so tired and stressed.

One of the recurring themes that came out of the show was the fear that families would be separated if the young carer was to ask for help. Many of the children were frightened that if they spoke about what they were doing they would be removed from the people they love. However, the survey is reassuring in some ways, with 80% of young carers saying they know who to talk to for help. However, this still means that 1 in 4 of young carers polled did not know where to turn to for help.

Bob Reitemeier, Chief Executive of The Children’s Society, “This programme demonstrates many of these children are taking on the responsibility for ill or disabled parents including high level care, such as administering medication, changing dressings and running the family home. In some cases children are looking after siblings alongside this.

“At The Children’s Society we feel it is vital that more support is in place to help these young people and the cared for person, so that they can have a childhood without this huge responsibility being placed on their young shoulders. It should not be down to them.”

There are currently over 250 young carers’ projects throughout the country, all of which offer support to young carers as well as arranging trips and nights out. Many, however, are at risk of losing their funding in the current round of local Government spending cuts.

The Children’s Society, in partnership with YMCA Fairthorne Manor, organises an annual young carers festival. More than 1,500 young carers from around the country take time out from their everyday responsibilities and get a chance to meet other young people in similar positions.


For more information, interview opportunities and case studies please contact The Children’s Society media office on 020 7841 4422 or mea@childsoc.org.uk

Notes to Editors:

  • Young people from Eastern Ravens project in Stockton were featured in the programme
  • The Children’s Society National Young Carers’ Forum: young carers can join the forum and get much-needed support www.youngcarer.com.
  • Young carers are children and young people under 18 who look after parents and other relatives who are disabled or live with a range of debilitating conditions.
  • It is estimated that there are more than 175,000 young carers across the UK according to 2001 Census – Office of National Statistics.
  • The Children’s Society is a leading children’s charity committed to making childhood better for all children in the UK. Visit www.childrenssociety.org.uk.
  • In 2009 The Children’s Society published The Good Childhood Inquiry, the UK's first independent national inquiry into childhood. Its aims were to renew society's understanding of modern childhood and to inform, improve and inspire all our relationships with children. The Children's Society is continuing trying to improve this understanding through all of its ongoing work.