Whole family approaches

Whole family approaches

Young carers exist because someone in their family network requires their support. Caring for a family member or friend can be a positive experience for a young person which can strengthen family relationships and build a young person’s life skills and maturity.

Why is whole family working important?

Young carers exist because someone in their family network requires their support. Caring for a family member or friend can be a positive experience for a young person which can strengthen family relationships and build a young person’s life skills and maturity. However, children must not be relied on to take on inappropriate or excessive caring roles that impact on their health, wellbeing, development or life opportunities.

Many young carers are providing caring roles that negatively impact on their own lives. Whole family working is essential to identify young carers early, address the root causes of why any child is undertaking a caring role and ensure the family have the right support in place.

What is whole family working for young carers?

Whole family working involves understanding and addressing the needs of the family as a whole.

This means:

  • considering the impact of an individual’s additional needs on the rest of their family
  • Addressing a child’s needs within the context of their family, instead of in isolation.

Evidence in practice highlights the particular benefits of supporting a young carer in the context of their family. By addressing the reasons why a young person is caring and providing support to the person who needs care and support and the wider family, the role and well-being of the young carer can be significantly changed.

In England, The Care Act 2014 enshrines in law the importance of a whole family approach as an effective way to understand and address the needs of an individual in the context of their family. See what the Care Act Says about whole family approaches and young carers in England.

What constitutes a ‘whole family approach’?

There are a number of different components that make a ‘whole family approach’ including:

  • whole family assessments   
  • support for adults and other family members within the family, such as parenting support; provision of practical and emotional support
  • building support networks including engaging the wider family through for example, family group conferences
  • relationship building within the family, such as support with building roles, routines and responsibilities and engaging families in positive activities (such as planning a menu, cooking together or a family picnic).

Get tips on how to start whole family working with our Whole Family Practice examples