Thursday 25 January is Young Carers Awareness Day (YCAD), a national day of recognition for the 700,000 young carers in the UK who provide care and support to family and friends who are disabled, ill, elderly or misuse substances.
A snapshot survey released by charity Carers Trust today reveals a high proportion of infant young carers (aged 5 – 10) surveyed by the charity are regularly suffering from broken sleep to help look after unwell family members.
There are now nearly 10,000 young carers under the age of eight in England and Wales who perform unpaid caring duties, with the most recent Census in 2011 finding a shocking 83% increase in the amount of young carers aged 5-7 since 2001 (2).
Carers Trust CEO Giles Meyer says, “The findings from our survey reveal a harsh reality for the very youngest young carers in the UK today, almost half of whom are regularly being required to get up during the night in order to look after their unwell family members.
“It is a tragic situation that children who have barely started school are losing sleep which is so significant to their development, and in the night-time, being exposed to and handling issues such as their siblings or parents’ panic attacks or epileptic seizures when they should be getting important rest.”
BaNES Carers’ Centre knows from working directly with children and young people that instead of seeing friends, enjoying hobbies and getting homework down, young carers can instead be cooking meals, administering medicine, shopping or looking after siblings – along with many other daily tasks.
Last year the Carers’ Centre received funding from the Carers’ Trust to develop a peer support project for older young carers called Learn to Lead. This enables young carers to influence our service as well as learning key skills in confidence, leadership and communication.
Claire Abrahams, the Carers’ Centre Participation Officer, says “Learn to Lead is a fantastic opportunity for young people to get involved in co-production of health and social care services; teaching them how to use their voice, feel confident and knowledgeable about how services are run in BaNES.
We hope that by encouraging young carers themselves to get involved and tell us what they need most we can offer a better service for those families – both here at the Carers’ Centre and in health services across BaNES.”
Carer Trust has released a short animation to mark Young Carers Awareness Day. Narrated by young carer Lottie, it is based on her personal experience of growing up as an infant young carer who, from the age of three, looked after her brother with severe health issues. See the animation here and read more about Lottie.
Lottie Fox, now aged 22, helped her parents to care for her little brother because he needs round-the-clock care. Lottie’s brother Harvey, now aged 19 years, has the mental age of a 9-month-old baby, because of a condition called Angelman Syndrome.
Lottie says; “Being a young carer has just always been a part of my growing up. My brother has always had to be looked-after 24-hours-a-day. He can never be left in a room by himself, and there are many things he can’t do, and my parents can’t do, simply because of the constant level of care needed.”
Results from Carers Trust’s new survey reveal:
- 46% are getting up in the night to care for loved ones, missing out on their own sleep.
- More than 80% are carrying out caring duties every day or most days of the week
- One in ten young carers go the shops unaccompanied to buy essentials for the family
- Three quarters of these children are providing emotional support by cheering up family members when they are sad.
Carers Trust is calling on all those in society including politicians, teachers and health and social care professionals, to understand and spot the signs of young carers and urgently prioritise their identification and support for them and their families.
If you are a young carer and live in BaNES, contact the Carers’ Centre’s young carer service via our website.