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Supporting young carers

Young carers are children who look after a family member or friend. Their extra responsibilities often mean they miss out on school and hanging out with their peers. It can sideline their whole childhood. That's why it's so important to help them to find balance, give them space to enjoy being young, and support them into adulthood, so they can pursue their dreams outside of caring.

What is a young carer? 

Being a young carer can mean a few different things. But, fundamentally, a young carer is someone under the age of 18 who looks after someone else because they have support needs. Often this is another member of their family, but sometimes it's a friend or a neighbour. This could be because that person has a physical or mental health condition or problems with substance misuse.

Looking after someone can include a wide range of things, from cooking and cleaning, to helping pay the bills. These extra responsibilities often mean they miss out on school and hanging out with friends.

Different factors can make the situation more complicated, too, such as the cost of living crisis or the person needing support being a lone parent with no other adults to rely on. A young carer often has to take on these adult responsibilities and worries while they’re still a child.

life as a young carer

Impact of being a young carer

Taking on caring responsibilities can have a negative effect on young people. Our research shows that young carers can feel stressed or anxious, miss school, have limited time to spend with their friends, and feel they have to limit their plans for their own futures.

At the same time, many young carers say it can be positive, too. They might value the closeness they have with the person they care for, and feel resilient through meeting the challenges they have experienced.

young girl smiling hand over mouth

Things are going upwards Things are going upwards

Molly's been looking after four members of her family since the age of 10. Since being referred to us at 14, she's grown in confidence and had time to pursue her own dreams.

How many young carers are there?

How many young carers are there?

There are lots of different estimates of how many young people in England have the role of ‘young carer', which makes The 2021 ONS census reported that there are around 120,000 young carers aged 5 to 18 in England, while the school census in 2023 suggested that there were 39,000 ‘known’ young carers in the country. Meanwhile, a 2018 survey run by the BBC found that there were as many as 820,000 young people aged 11 to 15 with caring responsibilities.

No matter the exact number, there are clearly many young people across the country with caring responsibilities. It’s important that every one of them is getting the support they need.

girls on a rollercoaster at the young carers festival

What rights do young carers have?

The Children and Families Act 2014 and the Care Act 2014 both significantly strengthened young carers’ rights. Local authorities have a duty to offer all young carers an assessment of need – no matter how old they are, who they look after, how many hours they provide support, and why they care. Local authorities might commission other local services to carry out assessments, but all young carers should be provided with one.  

Young adult carers are also entitled to a transition assessment before they turn 18. This makes sure that they have the support they need as they begin their adult life.  

Find out more here.

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Never doubt how much you’re worth Never doubt how much you’re worth