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2.2.48 Young Carers


  1. Definition
  2. Recognition
  3. Response

1. Definition

A ‘young carer’ is a individual aged under 18 who has a responsibility for providing primary or secondary care, on a regular basis for a relative (very occasionally a friend) whose needs may arise from:

  • Physical or sensory disability;
  • Learning disability;
  • Mental health related difficulty;
  • Chronic or terminal illness; or
  • Misuse of drugs or alcohol.

Young carers as well as providing emotional support, are frequently involved in shopping, cooking, cleaning, ironing, washing clothes, budgeting the household income and nursing responsibilities including provision of intimate personal care.

2. Recognition

The 2001 UK Census estimated there may be up to 175,000 young carers in the UK, a significant proportion in single parent households and/or those where adults are experiencing mental health difficulties or alcohol dependence.

Every young carer is an individual, coping in different circumstances with different levels of ability. Research suggests potential consequences including problems in development / transition to adulthood (growing up too quickly can often bring a degree of resentment in later life along with difficulties in forming relationships), and educational, social, emotional, physical and financial effects.

Thus, many young carers experience:

  • Low levels of school attendance and some educational difficulties;
  • Social isolation;
  • Conflict between family loyalty and their own needs.

It is often difficult to identify young carers because they may remain silent, about their situation as a result of fear that not so doing may result in the family being split up. This fear is manifested particularly with families from a minority ethnic background or new arrivals to the U.K.

3. Response

All agencies in contact with young carers should consider if those individuals are in need of support services in their own right.

Local Authority Children’s Services should consider whether any provisions of the ‘Children Act 1989’ or Carers (Recognition and Services) Act 1995 need to be applied.

The extent and effect of caring responsibilities may satisfy the criteria of Section 17 (1) ‘Children Act 1989’ for ‘Children in Need’ i.e. where a child is ‘unlikely to achieve or maintain a reasonable standard of health or development’ because of those responsibilities.

If any agency is concerned that the young carer is at serious risk of neglect, abuse or harm, this must be referred to Local Authority Children’s Services and if appropriate, a Strategy Discussion held.

Unless there is reason to believe it would put her/him at risk, a young carer should be told if there is a need to make a referral. If possible, the young carer’s consent should be sought through a discussion of why the referral must be made and possible outcomes.

In those situations where the child does not give consent, but it is still considered necessary to make a referral, s/he should be kept informed of all decisions made, and offered support throughout.

Responses should be the same as for any other child and no additional procedures apply.