It should not be assumed that all children in families where someone is living with HIV, are automatically young carers.
Problems arise when the level of responsibility taken on by the young person is inappropriate and impacts upon their own well-being. Children and young people may not disclose or even be aware that a member of their family is living with HIV, and therefore may not reveal their caring responsibilities. A child or young person’s lack of knowledge about the nature of their parent's illness should not lead to a lack of support.
Services should be provided with information to support families and to ensure that children and young people are not affected by inappropriate caring roles and responsibilities.
Awareness raising and training sessions should be used to:
- Increase the self-identification of young carers
- Increase the awareness and understanding of HIV.
The Children and Families Act 2014 and the Care Act 2014, both significantly strengthened the rights for young carers. When a child is identified as a young carer, the needs of the person they care for and the whole family should be considered. Assessments and support should be preventing children and young people from taking on excessive or inappropriate care.
HIV presents very specific needs concerning confidentiality and acknowledgement of, and sensitivity to, the real and perceived stigma faced by families affected by HIV.
Many families affected by HIV, fear breaches in confidentiality and may be reluctant to access support for young carers because of this.
Support for young carers
Local authorities must offer an assessment where it appears that a child is involved in providing care. This should automatically trigger a reassessment of the needs of the cared for person to determine if additional support to the cared for person can reduce the caring role of the young person.
Local young carers services often provide routes to assessment and support for young carers. Building strong working links with local young carers services - to establish referral processes and information - sharing is vital. These services may need support from specialist HIV professionals and a partnership could therefore offer the opportunity for an exchange of training and shared expertise.
If the family do wish to inform other professionals the young people should be able to access confidential support services, such as young peoples’ specialist HIV support services or a lead teacher.