A landmark change in the law, announced by the government today signals the start of a new era of support for 160,000 children in England caring for their parents, siblings and family members.
For too long, young carers have been slipping through the net between children’s and adult’s support services – hidden from view of the very authorities there to help them, according to the National Young Carers Coalition (NYCC) of leading charities.
Today, the Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove MP, has announced this historic amendment to The Children and Families Bill.
Now, when a child is identified as a young carer, the needs of everyone in the family will be considered. This will trigger both children’s and adults support services into action – assessing why a child is caring, what needs to change and what would help the family to prevent children from taking on this responsibility in the first place.
A staggering 166,363 children in England are caring for their parents, siblings and family members according to Census data released in May 2013. This is up by a fifth from when the last Census was conducted in 2001.
The tip of the iceberg
Despite this being the first official statistic to be published in ten years, this is only the tip of the iceberg. Many young carers remain hidden from the view of authorities. The Children’s Society’s analysis, Hidden from View, reveals that young carers are lagging behind in school and missing out on their childhoods because of the demands placed on them.
Dr Moira Fraser, Chair of the NYCC and Director of Policy and Research at Carers Trust, said: 'The National Young Carers Coalition (NYCC), has been campaigning for over a year for the government to change the law for young carers so that they have stronger rights to assessment and support and protection from inappropriate caring through assessment and support of the whole family.
'We are delighted that the Secretary of State has put forward this proposed amendment and indicated that the Care Bill will also protect young carers. Not only will these changes help professionals to understand what they need to do, they have potential to transform the lives of some our most vulnerable children and young people by helping them and their family when they most need it.'
A new era for young carers
The Children’s Society’s Chief Executive, Matthew Reed, said: 'This is an historic moment for children who have the responsibility of looking after their parents, siblings and family members. We applaud the government for taking a huge leap to support often incredibly vulnerable young carers who are slipping through the net, undetected by the support services they desperately need.
'This milestone signals the start of a new era of support for young carers. We know that caring can cost children dearly. As the Secretary of State has made clear today, our Hidden from View analysis has been a driving force behind this. It reveals that young carers are missing out on their childhoods and school, gaining fewer qualifications and job opportunities and therefore are less likely to earn a decent living in the future. All children must be allowed to thrive and enjoy their childhood.'
Barnardo’s deputy director of strategy, Alison Worsley said: 'This legal change is a significant opportunity to improve the long-term outcomes for young carers, and it has happened because young carers and those who support them have spoken out about what needs to change, and because the Government has listened.
'We must not forget that despite having some very adult responsibilities, young carers are still children. It is essential that we do all we can to ensure they don’t miss out on opportunities that other children have to play, learn and develop.'
The National Young Carers Coalition (NYCC) a *partnership of charities and organisations led by Carers Trust, The Children’s Society and Barnardos, has been lobbying for this vital change in law since 2012, gaining cross-party support from politicians and professionals alike
Samantha Patel, Carers Trust (Mon - Wed) 07810 544 420
Luen Thomson, Carers Trust (Thurs – Fri) 07792 959826
Lynsey Mellows, The Children’s Society: 0207 7841 4420 or 07841 080377
Notes for editors
*The National Young Carers Coalition (NYCC) is a coalition of organisations concerned with young carers and their families, either through direct provision of services and support, advocacy or research. Members include Carers Trust (formerly The Princess Royal Trust for Carers and Crossroads Care), The Children’s Society, Barnardo’s, Action for Children, Family Action, Disabled Parents Network, Kids, Gloucestershire Young Carers, Young Carers International at the University of Nottingham, and Young Carers Research Group.
- Carers Trust is a major new charity for, with and about carers. We work to improve support, services and recognition for anyone living with the challenges of caring, unpaid, for a family member or friend who is ill, frail, disabled or has mental health or addiction problems.
- We do this with our Network Partners - a unique network of 124 independent carers’ centres, 73 Crossroads Care schemes and 107 young carer’s services. Together we work as one organisation united by a shared vision for carers - to make sure that information, advice and practical support are available to all carers across the UK.
- There are seven million carers in the UK - seven million reasons to care and to get involved. For further information about your nearest service, please visit our website.
- The Children’s Society wants to create a society where children and young people are valued, respected and happy. We are committed to helping vulnerable and disadvantaged young people, including children in care and young runaways. We give a voice to disabled children, help young refugees to rebuild their lives and give young carers a voice. Through our campaigns and research, we seek to influence policy and perceptions so that young people have a better chance in life.
- The Children’s Society’s ‘Hidden from View’ report analyses data from a government study of 15,000 young people, aged 13 and 14, over a seven-year period, from 2004 – 2011. The ‘Longitudinal Study of Young People in England’ (LSYPE) was commissioned by the then Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF). Of the 15,427 young people who completed the first wave, 689 (4.4%) identified themselves as young carers.