Posted: 30 May 2013

Our once in a generation chance to improve young carers' lives

We published a report about young carers earlier this month that showed, according to latest census data, there are 166,363 young carers in England. The report also found that one in 12 young carers is caring for more than 15 hours per week and one in 20 young carers miss school because of their caring responsibilities. 

Right now we have a ‘once in a generation’ chance to improve the lives of young carers, and I wanted to explain why this is. 

Historic opportunity

There are two bills currently going through parliament which have the opportunity to help young carers. These are the care bill and the children and families bill. We have the opportunity to shape these bills to improve the lives of young carers, their families and our country.

We believe that the care bill should be amended to ensure that young carers are supported and adult’s needs are met sufficiently so that children are protected from harmful caring. At the same time, young carers’ needs and the needs of their families should be met under children’s legislation because young carers are children first.

The children and families bill is a great chance to simplify and clarify existing law and guidance in relation to young carers. We want the bill to give young carers a new legal entitlement to assessment and support  to ensure that young carers are not left with unequal rights compared with adult carers.

Why do we need change?

Caring responsibilities can have a negative long-term impact on children and young people. But there are ways of addressing this. 

For instance, existing law and guidance is complex, and a barrier to identifying and support young carers. There is little clarity about who is responsible and accountable for young carers. If we don’t identify young carers we can’t get them and their families the support that they need. 

It’s of real concern that adult social services and health only account for between 4-10% of referrals for support for young carers –sometimes young carers themselves have to request an assessment, which isn’t right. The authorities should be working together to support them.

How would working together help? 

Each local authority has an adult social services team, which looks at adults’ needs – this is what the care bill is about. We think that when assessing an adult’s needs, social services must look at the whole family and see if there are any children who need support and whether adults need extra support to take pressure off young carers. 

We also need children’s social services to be able to see whether adults need support in a family and get adults services to provide that support.

What’s happening in parliament, and what you can do

As the bills go through parliament we will be working with peers, MPs and ministers to get these issues debated and bills amended so that young carers are better identified, assessed and supported. 

When these bills are debated we need your help to make sure we get the improvements we need for your carers. You can contact your local MP to ask him or her to speak in parliament about the needs of young carers. 

Please follow @childsocpol for updates.


By James Bury - Policy team

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