6.14 Young Carers
A young carer is a young person under 18 who has a responsibility for caring on a regular basis for a relative (or very occasionally a friend) who has an illness or disability. This can be primary or secondary caring and leads to a variety of losses for the young carer.
Recognition & Response
Many young carers experience:
- Low level of school attendance;
- Some educational difficulties;
- Social isolation;
- Conflict between loyalty to family and their wish to have their own needs met.
It is often difficult to identify young carers because they may remain silent, whilst trying to keep the family together. The problem of identification can be further compounded where there is an able bodied adult/s within the home. It is easy to assume s/he is undertaking all of the care, though may in fact, be working long hours to keep the family financially secure and delegating caring responsibilities to the child.
All agencies in contact with young carers should consider if they are in need of support services in their own right.
Children's Social Care 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 Children's Social Care 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 are required.