HEALTHWATCH: What it means to be a young carer

With Nicola Strudley

Last week we celebrated Young Carers Awareness Day in Wokingham town centre. The needs of young people looking after a relative with an illness or disability are not always understood.

There are around seven million carers in the UK – that’s one in 10 people.

Carers often do not realise they are carers and can feel isolated and not know where to turn for support outside their families.

Issues that young carers can face include bullying. The Carers Trust claim that 68% of young carers are bullied at school.

Young carers can also have to miss school or cut short school days. The average was 48 school  days missed as a result of their caring responsibilities.

Young carers inevitable miss out on bits of their childhood due to the level of responsibility that goes along with a caring role. This creates pressure and can impact on emotional well- being.

Evidence show that young carers have worse mental health than their peers, reporting higher rates of anxiety and depression. The Time to be Heard campaign calls for better support for young adult carers and their families to address caring roles that have a negative impact on their health, including mental health.

Miss out

Young adult carers between the ages of 16-18 years old are often not in education, training or employment.

This group of people can miss out as they fall in between children and adult services.

We have heard about young carers in Wokingham not being given the flu jab for free as they do not meet eligibility criteria. We have escalated this issue to Healthwatch England to see if other parts of the country have the same issue.

Healthwatch have spoken to young carers about their experiences and how health and social care services could work better for them.

Some of the common things they have raised with us include:

  • Professionals having greater awareness of carers and their needs; Better information and help finding local services
  • Access to effective support services
  • More consistency in the support offered by schools.

Scarlett, aged seven, cares for her brother who is 18 months older than her and has autism.

She said: “Helping him is all I have every known. When he becomes frustrated and upset I can help Mummy and Daddy calm him down by getting his favourite snack or iPad. I also make sure my little sister is safe if he becomes cross.

“When we’re ready for school I help him get dressed and put his shoes on.”

With some carers as young as five and one in 12 young carers caring for more than 15 hours a week, it is essential local authorities identify the support gap then close it.

Let Healthwatch know your views. Get in touch:

Phone: 0118 418 1 418

Website:  www.healthwatchwokingham.co.uk

App: Speak Up Wokingham (Free to download from Apple or Google Play)

E-Mail: enquiries@healthwatchwokingham.co.uk

Facebook: @healthwatchwokingham

Twitter: @HWWokingham

Nicola Strudley works two days a week as the manager for Healthwatch Wokingham Borough. Opinions expressed in this blog are her own

Phil Creighton

Editor of The Wokingham Paper, and has worked in local journalism for more than 20 years including the Wokingham Times, Bracknell Standard and Reading Evening Post. He's also written for computer magazines, The Baptist Times and, to his delight and probably not yours, interviewed several Doctor Whos.

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