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What Does It Mean To Be A Young Carer?

You might have heard of the term ‘young carer’, but do you know what this means? Do you know who they are or what they do?  Are they always aware that they are one? Maybe you haven’t realised that you or a friend that helps out at home is a young carer.

I ddarllen yr erthygl hon yn Gymraeg, clicia yma

So what exactly is a young carer?

Children in Wales say that young carers are: “children or young people who take a significant role in caring for a family member. The family member could be suffering from physical or mental health problem, a disability or drug and alcohol problems.”

Young carers are children or young people who take a significant role in caring for a family member. The term ‘young carer’ can cover loads of things that a young person may be doing at home. It could be helping to look after a disabled brother or sister, or sorting out medication for a parent that’s struggling with mental health issues. These are just a couple of examples, there are many different caring roles taken on by young people.

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Difficulties for young carers

A survey of young carers (The Princess Royal Trust for Carers, 2010) showed that 39% said that people at school were not aware that they had a caring role. How would you know if your friends were in this situation at home unless they actually told you? Some may not see themselves as a young carer, it may just be a normal part of their life, and something they’ve always had to do without thinking about it. Or they might feel ashamed of their situation, or worried that if people found out how much they were doing that they’d be taken away.

Being a young carer can have a negative effect on the lives and wellbeing of some young carers:

  • Isolation
  • Depression
  • Lack of sleep
  • Living in poverty
  • Low self-confidence
  • Missing school
  • Being bullied

Tell-tale signs

Connecting Young Carers say there can be some tell-tale signs of a young carer:

  • Often late or absent from school with little explanation. 
  • Falling behind on school work, late or incomplete homework
  • Tired, anxious, withdrawn or worried
  • Isolated from peers, struggling to go to extra-curricular activities and trips
  • Secretive about home life
  • Shows signs of poor hygiene or diet
  • Displays disruptive behaviour
  • Talks openly about family health issues
  • Becomes uncomfortable when talking about various health topics
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It’s not all bad

Despite the negative effects that could be associated with having big responsibilities, it’s really important to recognise that not everything is doom and gloom for young carers. Being a young carer can:

  • Teach some really useful life skills at an early age
  • Make you more tolerant to people that are different
  • Build resilience
  • Be great at self motivating

Young carers probably don’t want people to feel sorry for them because of their responsibilities. It’s better to recognise that things may not be as easy for them and offer support.

Finding support

There is support out there for young carers. The more open we are about the role of being a young carer, the more young people will realise that there’s support available. There are specialised young carer groups out there that can provide help and activities. They understand a young carers situation and can support with needs assessments to make sure that they, and their family, get all the support that they need and are entitled to. Check out the Carers Trust website to find services local to you or contact us at the Meic helpline and we can work with you to find the help that you need.

Covid and young carers

A survey by the Carers Trust on the impact of Coronavirus on young carers shows that it’s had an effect on thousands of young carer’s mental health and wellbeing. When asked what difference Coronavirus had made to them, 56% of young carers said their education was suffering and 40% said their mental health had worsened. 

Check out this Radio 5 Live video where Charley talks about her lockdown experience.

If you’re struggling with anything, whether that be because of Covid or not, then Meic is here for you every single day, between 8am and midnight. We’re here to listen in confidence and offer advice and work with you to find the help that you need.