Identifying young carers

I had one-to-one sessions, where you just listened and let me get things off my mind. This really helped as I don’t have anyone else to talk to.
— Young carer

Young carers are children or young people who provide care for one or more family members who have disabilities, long-term physical illnesses, mental health difficulties or who misuse drugs or alcohol. They may be taking on physical, personal, financial and/or emotional care.

1 in 12 children and young people provide mid- to high-level care for someone in their family (BBC, 2010), which means there are over 7000 young carers in Sheffield. Many of these remain hidden however, either because they don’t see themselves as young carers (having done it all their lives) or because they feel too worried or frightened to ask for help.

Caring can have significant impacts on a young person’s own health, education and social development.  Impacts include:

  • Education – low attendance and attainment, lateness, behavioural issues, lack of concentration, unable to access extra-curricular activities.
  • Training and employment – low aspiration, reduced access to voluntary experience or personal/skills development, barriers caused by poor flexibility in work practices.
  • Physical health – injuries, strain, lack of exercise, unhealthy diet, lack of access to appropriate healthcare, or use of drugs, alcohol or self-harming or other potentially harmful coping strategies.
  • Emotional well-being – stress, worry, tiredness, depression, insecurity, anxiety.
  • Social isolation – lack of access to social activities, bullying, destructive behaviours, isolation from peers, and increased risks of criminal behaviour or child sexual exploitation.

For more information about the impacts of caring on young people, see the Children’s Society report ‘Hidden From View’. 

In addition to the young person’s primary caring role, families with young carers may encounter additional issues and barriers linked to their illnesses or disabilities, such as:

  • being a single parent family
  • low income or unemployment
  • debt
  • housing problems
  • substance or alcohol misuse (becoming a secondary reason for care)
  • relationship difficulties
  • domestic violence
  • anxiety
  • isolation.

Early identification is vital to reduce negative impacts on young carers and improve outcomes for them and their families. The key to identifying young carers is raising awareness and being proactive, to give children and young people the chance to recognise their caring and to feel safe enough to talk to someone about what is happening at home.

If you work with children and young people, we have a range of proactive identification tools which can help support you in your work. Please contact us for further information.

If you work with adults, whenever you identify that an adult you work with or someone in their family has disabilities, long-term physical illnesses, mental health difficulties and/or substance misuse issues, you should ensure all staff routinely ask questions and record information about the children in the family and the impacts this has on them.

Once you have identified a young carer or potential young carer, you should ensure that the right support is put in place to prevent or reduce their caring role and/or the impacts this is having on them. You can find out more about supporting young carers here.