More than eight out of ten young carers feel lonely during summer holidays
- New research also finds over a third do not look forward to the summer break
- Vast majority feel more stressed or worried than during term-time
- More than a quarter will spend over 10 hours every day caring for loved ones – equivalent to losing half their holiday
- Action for Children and Carers Trust are calling for better recognition of the work young carers do and proper funding for support services
More than eight out of ten young carers (82%) feel lonely during the summer holidays, according to worrying new research released today by Action for Children and Carers Trust.
The survey of young carers aged 11-18 also reveals that because of the increase in their caring responsibilities, the vast majority (86%) feel more stressed or worried during the summer holidays than during term-time, with nearly four in ten (39%) feeling that way for most of the summer break. Whilst 82% feel lonely at least some of the time, nearly a third (32%) feel lonely for most of the holidays.
It is therefore unsurprising that more than a third (35%) of the young carers surveyed said they don’t look forward to the summer break – which should be one of the happiest times of the year for young people.
While many of their peers are enjoying time off school, hundreds of thousands of young carers will be at home cooking, cleaning and looking after loved ones. The research shows more than a quarter (27%) feel they will not be able to have a break from their caring responsibilities during the holidays. A higher percentage of girls (31%) than boys (16%) said they didn’t feel able to take a break from their caring role during the holidays.
The survey also revealed how the holidays pile even more pressure on young carers. It found over a quarter (26%) will spend over 10 hours on a typical day over summer caring for family members – the equivalent of losing half of their holidays - compared to one in ten (12%) caring for the same time in term time. Shockingly, nearly one in five (18%) of those polled said they will be caring for more than 12 hours on a typical day in the summer holidays.
There are an estimated one million young carers across the UK looking after a family member with a disability, illness or mental health problem - some as young as five years old. Typically, young carers help with practical tasks around the home such as cooking, housework and shopping; physical care, such as helping someone out of bed; and personal care, such as helping someone dress. And not only do these children care for their family members during the day, they are also effectively ‘on call’ overnight.
A separate survey by Carers Trust earlier this year showed the intensity of young and young adult carers’ roles is increasing, with more than half (56%) saying the time they spent caring is rising, and nearly half (47%) now caring for more people than they used to. The first ever parliamentary inquiry into how caring affects their life chances has just been launched by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Young Carers and Young Adult Carers, supported by Carers Trust.
Kirsty McHugh, chief executive at Carers Trust, said:
‘While millions of children are heading off on fun-filled summer holidays, these alarming figures reveal young carers have a very different few weeks ahead. For many, going to school can be their only break from the stresses and strains of caring for loved ones, allowing them to just be children for a few hours. Their responsibilities only ramp up when term ends, often leaving them isolated and unsupported, with little time for seeing friends or getting a rest.
‘Young carers are carrying all too adult responsibilities on their young shoulders but are often forgotten about by those in a position to help. It’s vital that young carer services are properly funded so they can provide breaks for children in the holidays and beyond. These figures also highlight the need for holiday activities like sports camps and summer schools to be young carer-friendly. The least children deserve is the chance of a proper summer break.’
Paul Carberry, chief executive at Action for Children, said:
‘The summer holidays should be a carefree time for children but they can be heart-breaking for young carers who are often isolated and stuck at home, while their friends are having fun or enjoying time away. For young carers, the school term is often their respite from caring duties but that can disappear in the summer.
‘We see first-hand the awful, often life-long impact of loneliness, anxiety and stress on this hidden child workforce who dedicate their formative years to helping loved ones. They are desperate for a break from their responsibilities and to have a bit of fun in the holidays.
‘Young carers are proud to look after family members, but the work they do deserves proper recognition and support. Young carer respite services can be a lifeline, but the support currently available just isn’t enough to reach all of them in the right way. Only around 20 per cent of young carers in England receive support from their local council. The government must ensure councils have sufficient funding so all young carers have access to these essential services. Only then will these children begin to have the practical and emotional support they need for a safe and happy childhood.’
Aditya, 15, from Surbiton in south west London, looks after his 10-year-old brother Gautam who has a number of special needs including autism that mean he needs help doing pretty much everything from showering to eating. Aditya has always cared for his little brother and does so on a daily basis.
Aditya says he doesn’t get a break from caring during the summer holidays and the time he spends looking after his brother increases. He said:
‘My feelings about summer holidays are always a bit mixed. I like spending time with my brother. But really, after a few days, I find my caring hours have doubled and in some cases they may have even trebled. So in that sense it’s something I’m not really looking forward to.
'During the summer holidays because of how my caring responsibilities grow and how I'm probably going to be in the house most of the time, it's obviously very difficult for me to find time to go out with friends or even meet them for a short period of time. So in that respect, I'd say that it can be a bit lonely. I see everybody else doing it and naturally as a 15-year-old you're going to feel a little bit jealous.’
Mark Chandler, Media & PR Officer, Carers Trust 07712 427 808 / firstname.lastname@example.org (out of hours 07762 781 295)
Huw Beale, Senior Media Officer, Action for Children - 07718 114 038 / email@example.com (out of hours – 07806 806 282)
NOTES TO EDITORS
Action for Children and Carers Trust polled 275 young carers from their services and other young carer organisations and services in June and July 2023 via a Microsoft Forms online survey and hard copy print-outs which were uploaded onto the platform. The sample size of 275 is snapshot survey of young carers as they can be hard to reach because of their caring duties.
About Carers Trust
Carers Trust is the UK charity working to transform the lives of unpaid carers across the UK. It partners with its network of local carer organisations to provide funding and support, deliver innovative and evidence-based programmes and raise awareness & influence policy. Carers Trust’s vision is that unpaid carers are heard and valued, with access to support, advice and resources to enable them to live fulfilled lives. It hosts the Young Carers Alliance, a network of over 150 organisations and 300 individuals committed to improving identification and support for young carers and young adult carers. Carers Trust also hosts the Scottish Young Carers Services Alliance, an informal network of young carers services across Scotland. It has 51 members who provide support to young carers.
About Action for Children
Action for Children protects and supports vulnerable children and young people by providing practical and emotional care and support, ensuring their voices are heard and campaigning to bring lasting improvements to their lives. With 447 services across the UK, in schools and online, in 2021/22 we helped 671,275 children, young people and families.