Posted: 08 October 2013

Today's young carers announcement: What it means for young people

Following today's 'historic announcement' of support for young carers, our Public Affairs Manager, James Bury, explains what it means for young people and families.

Question: This sounds like big news for young carers. Can you explain what today’s announcement means?

James Bury: It’s a major change in the law that signals a new era of support for at least 160,000 children in England caring for their parents, siblings and family members. 

It’s important because young carers have slipped through the net between children’s and adult’s support services for too long. As a result, they’ve been hidden from view of the very authorities there to help them.

So when the Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove MP, announced this amendment to the Children and Families Bill that’s currently being debated in parliament, it was great news. He said:

'We are committed to ensuring that young people are protected from excessive or inappropriate caring responsibilities. The best way to achieve that is to ensure that the person being cared for, whether that is an adult or a child, is assessed and has all their eligible needs met first. To do this effectively requires local services working together across the statutory and voluntary sectors to consider the whole family’s needs.'

Q: Gove said 'the whole family's needs'. What does he mean by that?

Bury: When a child is identified as a young carer, the needs of everyone in the family will be considered. That had not been happening before. 

This new, more integrated assessment will trigger both children’s and adults’ support services into action. They’ll assess 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.

Also key to this is that there will be an extension of the right to an assessment of needs for support to all young carers under the age of 18 regardless of who they care for, what type of care they provide or how often they provide it. This means that young carers will no longer have to request an assessment or be undertaking a ‘regular and substantial’ amount of care to get an assessment of their and their needs.

Q: We created a report about the problem young people face from caring responsibilities. It’s a big issue.

Bury: That’s right, and Michael Gove made it clear today that that report, Hidden from View, was a driving force behind his announcement. 

Hidden from View was released within an hour of the most recent census data on young carers was released in May. The census revealed a staggering 166,363 children in England are caring for their parents, siblings and family members. Not only is that number up by a fifth from the previous census in 2001, we and other organisations believe the problem is much more widespread. In other words, we think there are many more young carers who are slipping through the system and who have not been counted by the census.

The Hidden from View report looked at the many ways that caring can cost children and families. It reveals that young carers are missing out on their childhoods and school, gaining fewer qualifications and job opportunities and consequently are less likely to earn a decent living in the future. 

Our position is that all children must be allowed to thrive and enjoy their childhood. It’s great that the government agrees.

Q: What else should people know about this announcement?

Bury: These changes should help professionals to understand what they need to do and they have the 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.

But mainly, this is great news for young carers. As our chief executive said: '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.'

By James Bury - Policy team

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I have worked for a local authority (within children's services) and also have a friend whose children are young carers for her as she is disabled. A key difficulty is actually recognising and identifying who these children are. However, I am also disappointed at the response of social services as far as my friend is concerned. They have been so reticent to engage and the financial pressures mean that the barest minimum support is proposed, as social workers are under pressure to close cases. My friend has really had to fight for support. I wonder how much this act will really change that given the financial pressures.

Hi, thanks for your comment. I shared it with the leader of our programme that supports young carers. She wrote:

Thank you for your comment. I recognise your concern. A law will only be effective if implemented correctly. The Department for Education (DfE) are funding The Children's Society and Carers Trust to deliver capacity building days to local authorities to understand the change in law and how to implement who family approaches.

I have included details for you in case you or colleagues would like to attend.

The care act guidance is also out for consultation at present so you might want to raise professional or personal points via the portal on the DH web site. If you need any more info to support your friend please do ask and we will try to advise.

Capacity building days:‬

Oxford - 23 September 2014‬
Birmingham - 7 October 2014‬
London - 10 February 2015‬

‪Capacity building days are designed to share and discuss changes in guidance and legislation, showcase examples of good practice, network and present relevant resources to help promote a whole family approach to young carers and their families. We will be sharing updates on the children and families act and the carers act, with an aim to increase understanding and promote discussion.‬

‪Focused training days:‬

London - 11 November 2014‬
Manchester - 27 January 2015‬

Our focused training days give delegates the opportunity to learn about families, especially where a young person may be taking on a caring role, that are often hidden or stigmatised. Families affected by parental substance misuse, parental mental ill health, affected by HIV and families from BME communities. The days give the opportunity to learn more about these issues and ways to support the families, with examples of good practice and plenty of time for discussion.‬