New research released today by UK charity Action for Children shows young carers spend on average 25 hours a week caring for loved ones – the equivalent of more than £12,000 a year on a part-time carer’s wage.
For a young carer between the ages of 7-18, this would add up to more than £140,000 of free work across that caring lifetime.
The charity is warning that not only do these children care for their loved ones on top of their school day, they are effectively also ‘on-call’ overnight.
Carol Iddon, deputy chief executive at Action for Children said: ‘Children cook, clean and care unpaid for family members with little recognition of the work they do or the proper support they need.
‘Having regular breaks and fun activities through young carer respite services can be a lifeline for them – but services are patchy and there aren’t enough to support this hidden child workforce.
‘We’re calling on the new government to make sure all young carers have access to these essential respite services. This would give these children the practical and emotional support they need to have a safe and happy childhood.’
Eleven-year-old Marissa Salter from St. Ives in Cornwall cares for her mum, Suzanna, 51, who was left with serious spinal damage and arthritis following a car accident several years ago. Suzanna also suffers from long-term lung disease, COPD, which causes severe shortness of breath.
Marissa said: ‘In the mornings I have to get mum out of bed, help her put her socks on and make her coffee. I also do the washing up, help with cleaning and the laundry and cooking. And I walk down to the shops to do the shopping because Mum isn’t supposed to lift anything.
‘I get upset sometimes because I go online and see all my friends are going to places that I want to go to, and they haven’t told me about it because they know I can’t go.’
Suzanna said: ‘She amazes me on a daily basis at how positive she can be even though I know she gets upset when she sees her friends go off to the beach or the skate park and I feel guilty as I can’t walk her down there.
‘I feel guilty, as if I’m not letting her have a childhood but at least through Action for Children’s Kernow Young Carers she gets that interaction and support from the staff.
‘We know we can call our support worker Louise anytime and Marissa has really enjoyed the trips they organise because she gets to meet other children in her situation. I honestly don’t know where we’d be without it.’
Cllr Judith Blake, chair of the Local Government Association’s Children and Young People Board, said with adequate funding from central government councils can do more to help young carers.
‘As these findings show, young carers do an amazing job but often face significant challenges.
‘Councils across the country work hard to make sure they are able to access the support they need while continuing to enjoy their childhoods and fulfil their full potential.
‘With adequate funding for children’s services and adult social care, councils can do more to help young carers and prevent them from having to pick up any shortfalls in support.
‘Every young carer has a right to an assessment to find out if they need additional support, and councils will do all they can to provide this support where needs are identified.
‘Councils need the support of all members of the community to help identify young carers to make sure that their needs can be assessed quickly, and the necessary support provided.
‘We, of course, recognise that this needs to be done sensitively as, from experience, we know that many young carers are reluctant to disclose their full circumstances.
‘Good relationships between councils, schools, the NHS and other organisations are crucial to making sure that children are referred as quickly as possible and get the support they need to help them their lives to the fullest.’
Photo Credit – Pixabay