January 30th is Young Carers Awareness Day – an annual, national event led by the Carers Trust.
What is Young Carers Awareness Day about?
Young Carers Awareness Day raises awareness of the challenges faced by young carers and is an opportunity to campaign for greater support for them.
This year, Carers Trust has launched the Count Me In! campaign asking education providers to do more to identify young carers and to make sure that they are recognised and supported. This includes making sure that more young carers know how to access their local young carers service.
What is a young carer and who are they?
The Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 defines a carer as, ‘a person who provides or intends to provide care for an adult or disabled child’1 – there is no minimum amount of hours an individual must be providing care to be recognised as a carer. A young carer is defined as being under the age of 18 years old. Carers’ roles will vary but may include carrying out household tasks such as managing the family budget, cooking and cleaning while others may also help an individual get dressed, wash or take their medication.
The most recent survey of children aged 11-16 in Wales2 found 16% identified themselves as having some form of caring responsibility for a family member with disability, physical or mental illness. The National Survey for Wales3 found 6% of over 16s were caring for a family member or friend for over 20 hours a week. Those living in the less affluent areas were more likely to have a caring responsibility3. This may be an underrepresentation of the number of young carers in Wales as not all individuals with caring roles will identify themselves as a carer.
What impact does caring have on their lives?
Evidence suggests young carers are more likely to miss school, have worse mental and physical health and can struggle to access support from their educational institution4,5. Surveys of young carers at school reported over a quarter had experienced bullying in relation to their role as a carer4.
Although the majority of young carers (67%4) did inform school staff about their caring role, a large proportion did not, and reported feeling there was ‘no point’ as they did not believe they would be offered any extra support or understanding.
Under the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 20141, carers of ALL ages have a right to an assessment of their needs and for the local authorities to put support in place to meet their needs. Estyn, the Welsh inspectorate of education and training in Wales has developed clear recommendations6 for provision for young carers in school and colleges – at Hafal we call for Welsh Government to implement these recommendations and continue to review the support offered to young carers in Wales.
How is Hafal helping young carers?
Hafal Crossroads is registered charity in Wales which provides practical support, information and assistance to unpaid carers of all ages. Hafal Crossroads also provides respite care at home, to give carers the opportunity to have a break. Services are currently available across the Hywel Dda University Health Board and Powys Teaching Health Board areas, and the local authorities of Ceredigion, Pembrokeshire and Powys.
For those caring for an individual with serious mental illness, Hafal have also created a ‘Ten Point Plan’ with the input and experience of over 400 carer members at Hafal. This aims to offer practical, positive advice on how to work towards the best possible quality of life for yourself and the individual you care for.
Hafal’s Mental Health Wales website also provides advice and guidance on carers’ legal rights in Wales.
1. National Assembly for Wales. The Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014. (2014).
2. Hewitt, G., Anthony, R., Moore, G., Melendez-Torres, G. J. & Murphy, S. Student Health and Wellbeing In Wales: Report of the 2017/18 Health Behaviour in School-aged Children Survey and School Health Research Network Student Health and Wellbeing Survey. (2019).
3. Welsh Government & Statistics for Wales. National Survey for Wales 2017-18. (2018).
4. Sempik, J. & Becker, S. Young Adult Carers at School: Experiences and Perceptions of Caring and Education. (2013).
5. Sempik, J. & Becker, S. Young Adult Carers at College and University. (2014).
6. Estyn. Provision for young carers in secondary schools, further education colleges and pupil referral units across Wales. (2019).