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Good Practice

Young adult carers and college

College is an important step for young people to access both the workplace and higher education.
Outcomes: 
PreventionWellbeingHealth inequalitiesCarer awarenessIdentifying carersCarers in employment
I work in: 
Carers servicesSocial careEducationCommissioning
I work with: 
Young adult carers
Location: 
Whole UK
Date Revised: 
Tuesday, November 25, 2014 - 15:15
Body: 

Why should colleges support young adult carers?

College is an important step for young people to access both the workplace and higher education. Historically, young adult carers have struggled to access college due to their grades in school and their caring role – young adult carers aged 16-18 are twice as likely to be not in education, employment, or training (NEET) than their peers.

There are carers in every institution although many are likely to be hidden. Recent research revealed that of the young adult carers who informed their college, 45% felt there was no one to help them (Sempik, Becker 2013). This discourages young adult carers from coming forward as they see ‘no point’ in telling anyone.

Mental ill-health

The pressure that academic study, paid work and caring puts on young adult carers is reflected in the high rates of mental ill health reported to Carers Trust. 45% of those surveyed reported a mental health problem – almost twice the national average.

The result of this is that, without the right support, young adult carers can struggle to do as well as their peers at college. A recent survey by the National Union of Students showed that only 36% of student carers felt able to balance their commitments, compared with 53% of students without caring responsibilities. This can have a negative impact on their life opportunities and the forming of their own identity and independence.

Young adult carers experiences of college

Harriet was caring for her dad (she now cares for mum) when she was 16/17 and at college. She was a lone carer – her mum and dad split up when she was 13 and her dad developed a drink problem.

At school Harriet had a sympathetic teacher who knew about her home life and gave her the right support. She got very good results at GSCE with 15 A and A* grades.

She went onto Sixth Form College and because of her academic excellence, they wanted her to take seven AS levels and didn’t want her to drop any. As Harriet says, “this would have been difficult for anyone, let alone someone running a house and caring for a parent.”

Struggling

As a result of the pressure Harriet struggled. She asked for more support from the college which was given and then withdrawn when she had to miss sessions because of her caring responsibilities. She also had some counselling sessions but she didn’t find them practically helpful.

Due to the lack of support at college and the situation at home, Harriet was diagnosed with depression and failed all of her exams.

Harriet decided to leave the college and discovered there was no record of her being a carer or being diagnosed with depression on her records, despite her saying so many times.

Harriet has now left education and is being supported to secure an apprenticeship by her local carers service.

Downloads: 
PDF icon Learning with Care NUS research reportPDF icon Young adult carers at college and university
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Key Info

Who are young adult carers?

Young adult carers are transitioning from childhood into adulthood, and they often go unidentified and unsupported.
Outcomes: 
Carer awarenessIdentifying carers
I work in: 
Health carePrimary careHospitalsMental health careHealth and wellbeingCarers servicesEmploymentSocial careEducationCommissioning
I work with: 
Young adult carers
Location: 
Whole UK
Date Revised: 
Tuesday, November 25, 2014 - 15:15
Body: 

Young adult carers are transitioning from childhood into adulthood. There is no legal age definition for young adult carers, although Carers Trust’s support work focuses on young adults aged between 14 and 25 who care, unpaid, for a friend or family member who due to illness, disability, a mental health problem or an addiction cannot cope without their support.

Young adult carers often go unidentified and unsupported, but the negative impacts of caring on young adults, which often increase as they grow older, can have a negative and enduring impact on their own physical health, mental health, education and employment opportunities.

How many young adult carers are there in the UK?

The 2011 census identified more than 375,000 young adult carers in the UK, but this is believed to be a huge underestimate of the true numbers as many young adults hide their caring role or do not identify themselves as carers.

Why do young adult carers need support?

Young adult carers take on significant additional responsibilities which can make the typical transitions from childhood into adulthood especially complex and challenging.

The difficulties they experience as a result of their caring role can have significant and long term negative impacts on their confidence, socialisation, their engagement with education and employment and their overall physical and emotional wellbeing.

View the PDF iconwho are young adult carers infographic to find out more about young adult carers and what they do.

Many young adult carers experience issues with their educationemployment and health.

Further information

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PDF icon Who are Young Adult Carers?PDF icon Young Adult Carers Experiences
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Educational

Anti Bullying Resource – Being Me

Bullying can be a big issue for young carers and can have a major impact on their self-confidence and self-esteem. "Being Me" will equip teachers to work with pupils to tackle bullying in a fresh way.
Outcomes: 
PreventionWellbeing
I work in: 
Education
I work with: 
Young carers
Location: 
Whole UK
Date Revised: 
Tuesday, November 25, 2014 - 13:45
Body: 

Carers Trust has teamed up with national anti-bullying charity Kidscape, as well as Diversity Role Models, Potential Plus UK and The National Autistic Society - charities representing children who are at the end of an unacceptable level of bullying in Britain's schools today, to develop Being Me.

Better understanding

Being Me is a series of resources designed to give children across the UK an insight into the life of their classmate, and a better understanding of what it is like to be them.

Originally designed for National Anti-Bullying Week's drive to stop bullying and to celebrate difference, this new unique school resource includes a specific section on young carers. 

Download resources

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PDF icon Being me - supporting young carers in your class
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Guidance

Young Carers and Parental Mental ill-Health – examples of good practice

Around a third of young carers care for someone with a mental health condition. Many young people who care for someone with a mental health problem go identified and unsupported. View examples of good practice on this page.
Area of Care: 
Mental Health
Outcomes: 
PreventionWellbeingIntegrationHealth inequalitiesCarer awarenessIdentifying carers
I work in: 
Health careMental health careHealth and wellbeingCarers servicesSocial care
I work with: 
Young carers
Caring for: 
Adults
Location: 
Whole UK
Date Revised: 
Tuesday, November 25, 2014 - 16:30
Body: 

Whole-family support for young carers affected by parental mental ill health

This PDF iconpartnership improves systems and practice within inpatient mental health services and community mental health teams, which then promotes mental health professionals to enquire about patients’ children and family situations and improves information sharing between all the professionals who work with these families. The project ensures that no child or young person takes on the majority of care for an adult once they are discharged from mental health services.

Young Carers website

Information about mental illness and support at www.youngcarers.net includes a film by a young carer who cares for her father with severe depression. The young carer explains how she copes with the responsibility of running the household and helping her father to stay positive.

MyCare project

The PDF iconMycare project from 2010 explored the needs of young people who care for a parent with severe mental illness.

Other examples of good practice for young carers affected by parental mental ill health

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Guidance

Young Carers and Parental Mental ill-Health

Around a third of young carers care for someone with a mental health condition. Many young people who care for someone with a mental health problem go identified and unsupported. Identifying these young carers may be more difficult because the illness is less visible.
Area of Care: 
Mental Health
Outcomes: 
PreventionWellbeingIntegrationHealth inequalitiesCarer awarenessIdentifying carers
I work in: 
Health careMental health careHealth and wellbeingCarers servicesSocial care
I work with: 
Young carers
Caring for: 
Adults
Location: 
Whole UK
Date Revised: 
Tuesday, November 25, 2014 - 16:30
Body: 

Mental ill-health

Not all children whose family members have mental ill-health will experience difficulties or be young carers.

Barriers to identification

Because mental illness is not always visible and many mental health conditions fluctuate nature, young carers often care unidentified and unsupported.

Mental ill-health is still often misunderstood and individuals and families can still experience stigma associated with it. As a result young carers caring for a parent or other family member with a mental health condition may be more reluctant to tell anyone about it. Identification may also be impeded by parents not wishing to involve services because of fear of stigmatisation.

Unique experiences

Whilst young carers will have many shared experiences, young people caring for someone with a mental illness may experience additional difficulties.

Young carers may find it hard to understand the illness and may not have someone to explain it to them in an age-appropriate way. Others may be embarrassed about their parent’s illness, bullied because of it, or scared by its unpredictable nature.

Providing emotional support to a parent at risk of harming themselves or committing suicide, or dealing with the aftermath of these actions and the intermittent and unpredictable needs of individuals with mental health difficulties can be extremely distressing.     

Because of the stigma associated with mental illness children and young people may conceal their caring role from their peers or choose not to take friends home for fear of being bullied or socially isolated.

Support

Fear of stigmatisation and fear of a services intervention can act as barriers to identification and young carers receiving support. Services and support must recognise these particular issues faced by these young people and gain the trust of families and young people in order to encourage openness and engagement.

Dual diagnosis

Some parents may have a mental health condition and also be affected by substance or alcohol misuse. It is important to maintain effective links between all agencies involved to provide extra support should they need it.

Further information

Young Carers and Parental Mental ill-Health – examples of good practice

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Guidance

What rights do young carers have?

Brief details of rights that young carers are entitled to, taken from the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Outcomes: 
PreventionWellbeingIntegrationCarer awarenessIdentifying carers
I work in: 
Health careCarers servicesSocial careEducationCommissioning
I work with: 
Young carers
Location: 
Whole UK
Date Revised: 
Tuesday, November 25, 2014 - 11:45
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As a child a young carer has the right to: 

  • a childhood
  • have an education
  • be healthy
  • be heard, listened to and believed
  • be protected from physical and psychological harm
  • be consulted and fully involved in discussions which affect their lives.
  • have privacy and respect.

Further detail can be found in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

A young carer has a particular right to:

  • request an assessment to see what help and support they and their family need
  • choose the amount of care they receive
  • be protected from excessive or inappropriate caring that impacts on their health and wellbeing
  • information and advice.
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Key Info

Young Carer Services

Young carers’ services provide a level of expertise in supporting young carers that universal services, by virtue of being universal, cannot provide.
Area of Care: 
Mental HealthPhysical illness
Outcomes: 
PreventionCarer awarenessIdentifying carers
I work in: 
Health carePrimary careHospitalsMental health careHealth and wellbeingCarers servicesCarers involvementCarers breaksInformation and adviceCommissioning for carersCommissioning for young carersSocial careEducationCommissioning
I work with: 
Young carers
Location: 
Whole UK
Date Revised: 
Tuesday, November 25, 2014 - 11:45
Body: 

Young carers’ services provide a level of expertise in supporting young carers that universal services, by virtue of being universal, cannot provide.

Many are able to be flexible and creative in how they deliver services. By championing the needs of young carers and families, many local services have also driven forward strategic change and workforce development in local areas.

Early intervention

Young carer services offer a range of early intervention and prevention support to young people with caring responsibilities aimed at:  

  • identifying and supporting young carers early
  • reducing inappropriate or excessive caring roles
  • improving young carers physical, mental and emotional health
  • reducing barriers to accessing and sustaining education, training and employment
  • Improving young carers’ life chances and helping them reach their potential.

Young carer services range in size and services offered, with funding coming from a range of sources including local authorities and voluntary sector grants.

Many young carer’s services have now also adopted a whole family approach. Many are now assessing and responding to the needs of the whole family by directly supporting families or by actively coordinating the support of other services.

Different types of activities offered include

  • activities and breaks
  • peer and community support, including young carers groups and peer mentoring schemes
  • information, advice and guidance, including 1:1 support and age appropriate information
  • emotional support
  • advocacy
  • brokerage and support planning
  • training in subjects such as health and safety, wellbeing and life skills
  • supporting families and young carers to apply for appropriate benefits
  • emergency planning support
  • whole family support
  • raising awareness and upskilling the workforce, including engagement with education, health and social care professionals
  • Young carers informing service development.

Where are young carer services located?

The Children's Society website has a map of young carers projects around the UK. Use the postcode, address or county search to zoom in to find local projects.

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Key Info

Who are young carers?

Young carers are children and young people under 18 years old who provide unpaid care to a family member who is physically or mentally ill, disabled or misuses substances.
Outcomes: 
PreventionWellbeingCarer awarenessIdentifying carers
I work in: 
Health carePrimary careHospitalsMental health careHealth and wellbeingCarers servicesCarers involvementCarers breaksInformation and adviceCommissioning for carersCommissioning for young carersEmploymentSocial careEducationCommissioning
I work with: 
Young adult carers
Location: 
Whole UK
Date Revised: 
Tuesday, November 25, 2014 - 11:45
Body: 

Young carers are children and young people under 18 years old who provide unpaid care to a family member who is physically or mentally ill, disabled or misuses substances.

The tasks and level of caring undertaken by young carers can vary according to the nature of the illness or disability, the level and frequency of need for care and the structure of the family as a whole.

A young carer may undertake some or all of the following:

  • practical tasks such as cooking, housework, shopping
  • physical care such as lifting, helping up the stairs and physiotherapy
  • personal Care such as dressing, washing and helping someone go to the toilet
  • emotional support such as listening, calming someone and being present
  • household management such as paying the bills, managing finances and collecting benefits
  • looking after siblings such as putting to be and walking to school
  • interpreting for parents with hearing or speech impediments or English as an additional language
  • Administering medication such as insulin needles and preparing daily tablets.

How many young carers are there in the UK?

The 2011 census identifies over 200,000 young carers in the UK, but research by the BBC in 2010 indicates that there are as many as 700,000 young carers living in the UK.

Hidden carers

Carers remain hidden for many reasons including:

  • they do not realise that they are a carer or that their life is different to their peers
  • their parent’s do not realise that their children are carers
  • they worry that the family will be split up and taken into care
  • they don’t want to be any different from their peers
  • their parent’s condition is not obvious so people don’t think that they need any help
  • there has been no opportunity to share their story
  • They see no reason or positive actions occurring as a result of telling their story.

Why do young carers need your support?

Young carers often go unnoticed in their communities, but the negative impacts of caring on young people can be very real and enduring. If left unsupported young carers can take on responsibilities that will have a lasting effect on their health and wellbeing, friendships and life opportunities.

Many young carers experience issues with their:

  • physical health: often severely affected by caring through the night, repeatedly lifting a heavy adult, poor diet and lack of sleep
  • emotional wellbeing: stress, tiredness and mental ill-health are common for young carers
  • isolation: feeling different or isolated from their peers and with limited social opportunities
  • Lack of a stable environment: traumatic life changes such as bereavement, family break-up, losing income and housing, or seeing the effects of an illness or addiction.

The wider impacts of these effects can be felt on a young carer in their education, employment and their health and wellbeing.

Find out more

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Educational

The role of school nurses in supporting young carers

School nurses play an important role in identifying school aged young carers both in and out of education. Public health nurses can play an important role in identifying and supporting families where there may be a child or young person caring or who could become a carer.
Area of Care: 
Physical illnessPrimary Care
Outcomes: 
PreventionWellbeingHealth inequalitiesCarer awarenessIdentifying carers
I work in: 
Health carePrimary careHealth and wellbeingEducation
I work with: 
Young carers
Location: 
Whole UK
Date Revised: 
Thursday, October 23, 2014 - 10:00
Body: 

The school nurse can play a key role in identifying young carers at an early stage, protecting their health and wellbeing and ensuring that they and their families are linked into and receiving further support from other services that they may need.

Supported by Carers Trust, several of its Network Partners and young adult carers involved in the Time to Be Heard campaign, the Department of Health have developed several strands of work for young carers:

Supporting the health and wellbeing of young carers

The Pathway Supporting the health and wellbeing of young carers is designed to support integrated working between the school nursing service, other public health nurses and partners in supporting young carers and their families. It sets out the rationale for effective partnership working recognising the need to offer support within a school and community context.

The pathway provides a model for a coordinated approach between school nursing, education, local authorities and young carers’ services, to ensure early identification of health and wellbeing needs and the provision of primary healthcare services to young carers and their families.

Young Carer School Nurse Champions

To complement the Pathway, school nurses across England are being trained to become Young Carer School Nurse Champions to give them a strong understanding of the pressures young carers face and how to ensure they receive the care they need.

On completion of the training, school nurses receive the Champion badge which will clearly identify to young carers those school nurses who have undergone training. To strengthen their role, a PDF iconSchool nurse champions charter has also been developed that sets out key messages and specific roles of a School Nurse Champion.

Work is also underway with the Department of Health to link up young carers’ services with their local school nurse.

School nurses community

Visit the Royal College of Nursing's School nurses' community website, that includes information about young carers in schools and "Meet the School Nurse Carer Champions".

Royal College of Nursing online learning resource

RCN Learning has a resource which aims to help school nurses and their teams to support young carers. It may also be of interest to children’s community nurses and health visitors.

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PDF icon School Nurse Champions Charter
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Guidance

Young Carers and Cultural Awareness

Young carers from some groups and communities may have particular needs and experience specific barriers to accessing and engaging with support.
Outcomes: 
PreventionIntegrationCarer awarenessIdentifying carers
I work in: 
Carers servicesSocial careCommissioning
I work with: 
Young carers
Location: 
Whole UK
Date Revised: 
Tuesday, November 25, 2014 - 08:15
Body: 

According to the 2011 census young carers are 1.5 times more likely to be from black, Asian and minority ethnic families. This will partly be due to health inequalities experienced in different communities. These young carers and their families may have specific needs and face particular barriers to accessing support.

Needs and experiences of young carers and families from diverse communities

Young carers from some groups and communities may have particular needs and experience specific barriers to accessing and engaging with support including:

  • Less awareness of services or support available to them.
  • Hesitancy to involve services with their family.
  • Language barriers and children sometimes need supporting with translation for the person with care needs and the family.
  • Different cultural attitudes towards caring which may result in different expectations from family members including children, men and women.
  • Caring for others in the community outside the family may also be expected.

As a result some young people may be even less likely to recognise themselves as carers.

Embedding Cultural Inclusivity in developing services for young carers and families

It is vital that all local needs assessments involve research into diverse communities and reveal those young carers who may face stigma or are harder to reach  in order that appropriate specialised support is developed. Different communities should be consulted and involved in the planning and development of services in order to ensure that cultural inclusivity is embedded. Awareness raising of professionals, promotion of services and information for young people and families all need to be considered through a culturally aware lens.

Research by Carers UK shows that black, Asian and minority ethnic carers are particularly likely to make use of direct payments because they are able to buy more culturally sensitive services.

Practice examples

Supporting young carers from families affected by HIV

PDF iconAn inititative that works closely with families affected by HIV, as well as faith and community leaders, schools, local social services and GPs to provide all round support for young carers.

Supporting refugee young carers and their families

The refugee toolkit is for all practitioners, and was developed by The Children’s Society Family Health Inclusion Project. This practice resource is designed to enable all service providers to stay informed about the needs, rights and entitlements of refugee and asylum seeker young carers and their families and to carry out effective and appropriate signposting and joint working.

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