It’s time to give young carers the support they deserve

At Sense, we work with over 345 young carers and we see first-hand how important it is to advocate for their rights. That’s why we’re supporting the new Young Carers Pledge. Robert Moss, who runs our siblings and young carers service, explains what it is and why it matters.

What are young carers?

Young carers are people under 18 who have some responsibility for taking care of a family member. Often, it’s someone with a disability. There are 800,000 young carers in the UK today.

Young carers face additional pressures and stress in their daily lives. It’s important for them to be able to relax, socialise, focus on their education, and talk about their experiences. Often, however, they lack the necessary support.

How eight-year-old Ivy shone a light on the lack of support for young carers

Ivy has two disabled siblings. Her younger brother Harry has Antenatal Bartter syndrome, ADHD and global developmental delay, and her older sister Kate has autism. Ivy is often on hand to support her family, whether it’s helping Mum out around the house or playing with her brother, Harry.

She attends Sense Siblings and Young Carers service but had not received any support from the council or her school for over two years.

Earlier this year, Ivy decided to take matters into her own hands. After attending an online Sense workshop, ‘An Introduction to Parliament,’ she wrote to her MP, Johnny Mercer, sharing her experience of being a young carer and the challenges of getting support.

As a result, she received a referral to be assessed in school for additional support, something the family had been waiting two years for. The issues Ivy shared have since been raised by Plymouth City Council, which has discussed how it can better support young carers across the constituency.  

Ivy, age 8, who became an advocate for young carers’ rights.

Ivy’s mum Ellie said,

“We are all so proud of Ivy. It still blows me away that after the ‘Introduction to Parliament’ Zoom session, she—at the age of seven—took it upon herself to make a change and see how our local MP could help her.

The letter she wrote was amazing, as was Johnny Mercer’s response. Ivy’s actions have not only improved her life but highlighted the plight of siblings and young carers with the government and our local council.”

Last week, we recognised Ivy’s initiative and dedication by giving her a Sense Award , our way of celebrating the achievements of people with complex disabilities and their families.

We need to take young carers’ rights seriously. Here’s how:

Do you know a young carer who helps a disabled relative?
Learn how our online activity and support groups can help.

Ivy’s story shows how young carers are being let down across the country. The responsibility shouldn’t lie on children to advocate for change – local authorities, schools and health services should have the tools they need to support them.

That’s why we’re supporting the new pledge by the Young Carers Alliance. Launched on Young Carers Rights Day, it sets out what needs to change for the UK to take this issue seriously.

Young carers play a vital role in the lives of disabled people, and we believe this pledge is an important step in advocating for their rights.

The pledge

  1. Every young carer should know and understand that they have legal rights and know how to access their rights
  2. No child or young person should be required to provide inappropriate or excessive levels of care which impacts on their health, wellbeing, education or development or childhood.
  3. Every local area should take proactive steps to identify the number of young carers in their area are and ensure they get the support they need.
  4. Every young adult carer should be supported to ensure they can make a successful transition into adult life.
  5. Every young carer should have someone within school, college or university who they can talk to about their caring situation or if they are in need of extra help.
  6. All schools should proactively seek to identify who their young carers are and whether they are in need of additional support.
  7. Every local authority should have an active Memorandum of Understanding to ensure children and adult social care services are working together to provide a whole-family approach to support for young carers and their families. These should also include health and other key stakeholders, including Voluntary, Community and Social enterprise (VCSE) organisations.
  8. Integrated health and social care boards/partnerships should be involving young carers and young adult carers in the planning of services. They should also make sure young carers and young adult carers are identified, consulted and linked into support by health professionals such as GPs, mental health staff and those involved in hospital discharge.

Everybody deserves a break

Being able to take a break from caring is essential, but many people struggle to access the respite they’re entitled to. 

Will you add your name to help give carers the break they need?