A report by the Children’s Society states that there are estimated to be around 800,000 young carers in the UK. A young carer can be classified as someone up to the age of 25 who is taking care of someone with a chronic illness. According to the same report, 39% of those carers claimed that nobody in their school was aware of their caring responsibilities.
The weight of responsibility on young shoulders
Caring for a loved one is an especially challenging task and responsibility and when, upon young shoulders, can add significant stress and anxiety to their daily lives. Daily tasks such as managing household duties, taking care of the finances and emotional support round-the-clock can become a constant day-to-day responsibility. These responsibilities, taken up at such a young age, can get in the way of education and stop young people from having the best chance of an effective start in life. Social stigma can also prevent a young carer from coming forward and seeking help and support. Young Carers Action Day, inaugurated in 2012, creates awareness within society of the huge responsibilities that young people have to deal with, often with little or no time off. It is the aim of the campaign to inspire young people to actively seek help and support with their responsibilities, rather than shouldering such heavy loads alone.
Cultural Aspect/Social Stigma
Across the UK young people make up a diverse community and society and so the cultural practices and approaches to caring can differ greatly. There is often a social component and pressure that they should shoulder the weight and burden or responsibility entirely on their shoulders. Part of the aim of the campaign is to effectively highlight these pressures and relieve them with available social support and resources.
Unfortunately, social stigma still exists and can be particularly difficult as an adolescent whilst still in school. Children have often reported bullying and social isolation due to being carers whilst at home. In helping to change perspectives we can help develop a positive attitude in the younger generation, rooted in respect and understanding and show young people that they are not alone.
Stress management is crucial at this critical time and, if not managed correctly, can lead to the development of mental health problems and other physical illnesses in later life. If not catered for in the early years this will inevitably develop further and put stress and strain on the individual and society as a whole in later life, often becoming a burden to the taxpayer. Working collectively as a society to promote a better understanding of the pressures on young carers as well as providing effective and accessible support at this especially critical time is essential to creating a thriving, sustainable and healthy society.
Young Carers Action Day is organized by the Carers Trust and takes place in March of 2023. The campaign aims to encourage organizations and individuals to recognise and support young carers. Since 2012 it has been helping assist Young Carers whilst also promoting awareness of their plight as well as providing access to financial support, well-being/counselling and support groups. Raising awareness is one way of helping provide this much-needed support, changing society’s perception as a whole and subsequently relieving the burden on young people.
Carers Trust is here to help and support you as a young carer – please visit the website (https://carers.org/) and understand how they can help you.
Carers UK – help and support (https://www.carersuk.org/) – offering emotional support such as weekly phone calls and regular group chats.
UK-based charity The Mix aims to help under 25-year-old carers by offering a counselling service helping mental health and well-being. Simply fill out the form here and see if you are eligible for The Mix
Furthermore, a new initiative jointly funded by the European Commission Together Project aims to promote awareness and communication between the recipient and the rest of the family.
As our population expands and the number of people living longer enjoy their twilight years, the demand and necessity for more young carers to provide caring and nursing services will only increase. Providing the much-needed emotional and financial support at these crucial times is imperative to giving the best opportunities in life for young people by helping to shoulder the burden.
Additionally, this can also prevent a potential epidemic of mental and physical health problems for future generations that society may well have to pick up financially and otherwise. The necessity to change the social stigma associated with caring and changing society’s perception as a whole is essential as the catalyst for this change.
Often, having been a carer can prepare them with valuable much-needed skills for the workplace and personally for the individual. Societies and companies can and should offer more attractive options to carers and healthily promote the process of caring within society at large. This pays dividends in developing a strong competent workforce and sustaining a healthy society. Schools can offer more comprehensive pastoral care services, through simple actions such as homework extensions and respite/pastoral care. Communities can look to develop programmes specifically for carers.
Above all, it is imperative to show young people that they are not alone and to provide support and resources to help relieve the pressures and burden of caring.