Young refugees and those from migrant communities can face severe and multiple disadvantages in their lives and have complex needs

two young people

Many people who are refugees or are seeking asylum have un-met health and social care needs and can find themselves relying on their children to carry out their care needs.

Children and young people in these families therefore can become young carers as a direct result of their families’ experiences of forced migration and flight from war and persecution. Refugee children and young people are particularly vulnerable due to the physical and emotional disruption and trauma they may have experienced.

'We end up becoming translators, legal advisors, housing advisors and carers for the whole community’ - young carer from asylum seeking family

The additional burden of having to care for a family member who is mentally or physically unwell may prevent them from integrating into their communities. This can have a significant effect on their development, and their physical and emotional well-being.

Young carers from refugee and asylum seeking families should not have to take on inappropriate care for another family member which impacts upon their own physical and mental well-being.

Issues related to caring responsibilities

Consultation with young people and their parents from refugee and asylum seeking families has shown that they may face specific additional issues with their caring responsibilities that affect the continuity of support. These include language barriers, prejudice, limited knowledge of health services and social care provision, isolation, dealing with displacement and dispersal. 

This could be due to families:

  • Being unaware of the services or support available to them
  • being reluctant to involve agencies with their family in case it impacts upon their asylum claim
  • having cultural views about caring and expect the child to be the carer
  • having a young person who takes on the caring role at the onset of the illness or disability and it is seen as a natural progression over time. Such children may not recognise that they are carers. 

Think whole family

When supporting young carers, keep in mind that:

  • A referral for any young carer should automatically trigger an assessment or review of the needs of the person who is ill or disabled
  • Assessments for ill or disabled adults should always ask the question: 'Are there any children or young people in the family who may be acting as carers?'
  • Always refer to the Whole Family Pathway­ for good practice guidance when assessing the needs of the whole family
  • It is important not to make assumptions regarding culture and caring in order to avoid excluding the family (even unintentionally), from support.  Do not assume that because a family is of a particular cultural background that they would not want to access support.
  • If a family does not wish to access support consider if this is because the service is not culturally appropriate or flexible enough for the needs of the family, rather than assuming that the family prefers to take on the caring role themselves.
  • Always consult the family about the needs of the whole family and what would be useful for them. 

Tailoring services to a family's strengths and needs

Services need to ensure that there is no wrong door to support. Support should be tailored to the family’s needs, build on the family’s strengths and address the whole family, not just individual members. Every door should provide access to service provision - this includes all practitioners in a position to support refugee and asylum seeking families.

There should be a commitment from health, adult and children’s services, the voluntary sector, education and refugee and asylum support projects to carry our effective multi-agency working, including provision of a whole family assessment and signposting to other services.

For more information regarding the tasks carried out by young carers, the impacts of inappropriate caring responsibilities and ‘good practice’ guidance, refer to the Whole Family Pathway