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Overview

Background papers: children :: Child Carers :: Overview

Summary

The term “unpaid carer” encompasses individuals of any age who provide unpaid support to a relative or friend who could not manage without this help.[1] This could include the provision of support to someone who is ill, frail, disabled or has mental health or substance misuse problems. Anyone under the age of 18 who is in some way affected by the need to take physical, practical and/or emotional responsibility for the care of another person is termed a 'young carer'. In Medway there are an estimated 2,300 unpaid carers under 25 years of age.[2] ]. Although, many carers do not make themselves known to services, therefore this number is likely to underrepresent the actual value.

Caring can have detrimental effects on the health and education of the young carer. It is important that young carers are identified and supported early to ensure that the health and wellbeing of the carer, and the person being cared for, are protected. Young carers can be particularly vulnerable as they are often undertaking a level of responsibility that is inappropriate to their age or development and for this reason may also be reluctant to seek help. In addition, caring may have detrimental effects on the young carers' education and can therefore impact on the carer's future earning potential and thus their ability to support themselves financially.

Key issues and gaps

The Care Act 2014 came into force in April 2015 and, for the first time, allows carers the same rights to assessment and support as the persons they care for.[3] This shift in focus has highlighted the need for change nationally, to put legislation from the health and social care reforms into action. This includes the increased monitoring of the impact on carers, to ensure that future priorities for action to support carers are identified. In response to the Care Act 2014, Medway has formed a new strategy entitled “NHS Medway and Medway Council Joint Carers' Strategy”,[4] which sets out to identify carers in need of help and put in place the structures necessary to deliver advice and support. This support is hoped to maximise the carers' potential through the delivery of training, identification of resources already available to them in their family and community networks and, in some instances, provision of financial assistance.


References

[1]   HM Government. Recognised, valued and supported: next steps for the carers strategy 2010; HM Government. http://www.dh.gov.uk/prod_consum_dh/groups/dh_digitalassets/@dh/@en/documents/digitalasset/dh_122393.pdf .
[2]   ONS. Census 2011;
[3]   Government H. Carers Strategy: Secon National Action Plan 2014 - 2016 2014;
[4]   NHS Medway and Medway Council. Joint Carer's Strategy 2015 - 2017 2015;