Wednesday, 17 November 2010


I moved on to visit Willow Young Carers...

There has been a lot on the news and in the papers about the number of young carers looking after family members in this country. Research suggests that up to 700,000 children could be acting as carers for members of their families, which is more than four times the previous official estimate.

A survey of over 4,000 secondary school pupils across the UK for BBC News suggested that 8% of them – around one in 12 – had moderate or high levels of care responsibilities. Translated across the UK as a whole that would mean 700,000 children under 18 are regularly caring intimately for a close relative, including helping them bathe, dress or go to the toliet. The previous estimate, based on the 2001 census, put the figure at 175,000.

A survey of 4,029 pupils from ten UK secondary schools asked about the level of responsibility a young person has in the home and the types of caring activity undertaken by the young person. Of these 4,029 school pupils, 337 (8%, or 1 in 12) said they had over the preceding month carried out personal care of someone in their home either "a lot of the time" or "some of the time". This includes helping the person they care for to dress, undress, wash, bath or shower. These types of personal or intimate tasks are recognised as the most difficult and embarrassing types of care both for young people to give, and for adults to receive.

Of those who responded to the survey, 29% said they had carried out "emotional care or supervision" of someone in their home either "a lot of the time" or "some of the time" over the preceding month. This includes keeping the person they care for company. While it's impossible to class all of these as young carers, many will be coping with mental illness or substance abuse in their homes.

I was at Willow Young Carers with Cllr Jane Dowson, my colleague John Paxton, who heads up- the Integrated Youth Support Service, and Al Berry, a student at Temple Moor High School who represents Leeds on the Youth Parliament. Al had contacted Cllr Dowson with some ideas which would support our young carers which we discussed with my colleague Sheila Davenport and her colleagues from Barnardo's who host the Willow Young Carers project.

Willow Young Carers is a brilliant project that reaches some of our most special and simply extraordinary young people who care for someone in their family as well as managing their home life, their friends and their school work. Sheila has over the years raised the profile of young carers through some fantastic projects and initiatives and it's great that Al and the Youth Parliament also want to support our young carers. We need to change the culture of our schools, particularly our secondary schools, and create 'carers friendly' organisations who understand the issues our young carers face everyday as they juggle their caring responsibilities and their home and school lives.

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