Steep decline in mental health of young carers and young adult carers following Coronavirus outbreak

New Carers Trust survey also shows pandemic’s dramatic impact on wider wellbeing:

  • 40% of young carers and 59% of young adult carers say their mental health is worse since Coronavirus.
  • 67% of young carers and 78% of young adult carers are more worried about the future since Coronavirus.
  • 66% of young carers and 74% of young adult carers are feeling more stressed since Coronavirus.
  • 69% of both young carers and young adult carers are feeling less connected to others since Coronavirus.
  • 11% of young carers and 19.7% of young adult carers report an increase of 30 hours or more in the amount of time they spend caring per week.

(Young carers aged 12 to 17 and young adult carers aged 18 to 25 took part in the survey).

“I am unable to do my school work properly. I am finding it hard to concentrate because I am worried about the person I care for. And my mental health is going downhill which is making this situation a lot harder.”

15 year-old young carer from England who responded to the survey

The results of a new Carers Trust survey (1 – see notes to Editor for sample size), published today, point to a steep decline in the mental health and wellbeing of the hundreds of thousands of young people across the UK who provide unpaid care at home for family members or friends.

The Carers Trust survey is the first of its kind to provide a base of evidence for how worries relating to Coronavirus and increased isolation caused by the lockdown has affected the mental health and wellbeing of the UK’s young people with caring responsibilities.

Coronavirus increases caring hours and pressures on young carers

Even before the outbreak of Coronavirus, young carers and young adult carers were all too often spending significant amounts of time caring for a relative in addition to the time they needed to spend on education, work and time for themselves. Coronavirus has significantly increased those pressures. The Carers Trust survey has found that 58% of young carers who are caring for longer since Coronavirus are spending on average ten hours a week more on their caring responsibilities. Among young adult carers the proportion is even higher at 63.6%.

Most shockingly of all, 7.74% of young carers and 14.94% of young adult carers who responded to the survey, said that they are now spending over 90 hours a week caring for a family member or friend.

When asked what difference Coronavirus had made to them, 56% of young carers said their education was suffering and 40% said their mental health had worsened. Asked the same question, 59% of young adult carers said their mental health had become worse and 42% said they had been unable to take a break from caring.

Responding to findings published today, Carers Trust CEO and former young carer, Gareth Howells, said:

“This is the first snapshot of how Coronavirus is affecting hundreds of thousands of young people with caring responsibilities across the UK. And the results are truly shocking. They cannot, and must not, be ignored.

Even before the pandemic struck, the failure of successive UK governments to properly fund social care meant that an intolerable strain was being placed on young people who had to step in to provide the care that a cash-starved social care system increasingly could not.

That over-dependence on young carers and young adult carers has created a ticking timebomb with their mental health and wellbeing being placed at serious risk.

Coronavirus, and our findings of its impact, have brought into sharper focus still the unacceptable pressures young carers are under and the effect this is having on their wellbeing and life chances. There are estimated to be around one million young carers alone across the UK and today’s findings are the wake-up call that can no longer be ignored.

We’re long past the time when sympathy and kind words for young carers is enough. Hundreds of thousands of young carers across the UK need real support and we are calling on the government to urgently invest in support services for young carers to ensure they get the support they need.”

Other key findings from the survey:

  • 56% of young carers say their education is suffering since Coronavirus.
  • 52% of young adult carers feel overwhelmed by the pressures they are facing now.
  • 49% of young adult carers are struggling to look after themselves.
  •  50% of young adult carers are having to spend more money due to Coronavirus.
  • 66% of young carers and 71% of young adult carers are less able to stay in touch with friends since Coronavirus.

Based on the survey findings, Carers Trust is calling for:

  • Greater prioritisation of mental health support for young carers. Carers Trust has previously identified mental health as a priority area for support. However, there is still low awareness amongst service providers and commissioners. It is vital that mental health services and schools supporting a child or young person with their mental health ask about caring responsibilities and support that child or young person to get support with caring. Young carers services frequently report a lack of mental health support for this group, beyond what they can provide as a service. This support gap is strongly indicated by the survey finding that 30% of young carers and half of young adult carers want mental health support.  
  • Greater support from education providers and employers to help young carers and young adult carers to juggle their caring roles alongside school, college, university or work. Like other children and young people, they have goals and aspirations. Without the right support, young carers and young adult carers are at risk of lower exam results, and spending less time in education. This has consequences for their higher and further education, and employment.  This call is supported by the survey findings that 56% of young carers and 39% of young adult carers report that their education is suffering as a result of Coronavirus; and that 44% of young carers and 39% of young adult carers would like more support with their education.

See below a series of quotes from young carers and young adult carers on how they have been affected by Coronavirus.

Ends

Notes to editor:

Expert spokespeople from Carers Trust, and young carers, are available for interview on request. For further information, and to arrange interviews, please contact: Matt Whitticase on mwhitticase@carers.org and 07824 539481.

(1) 56.5% of respondents were young carers aged 12 to 17. And 42.6% of respondents were young adult carers aged 18 to 25. 961 responses were made in total from across the UK. This gives a maximum margin of error for the findings of +/- 3.16%, making the survey statistically significant.

Carers Trust is a major charity for, with and about carers. We work to improve support, services and recognition for anyone living with the challenges of caring, unpaid, for a family member or friend who is ill, frail, disabled or has mental health or addiction problems.  

We do this with a UK wide network of quality assured independent partners and through the provision of grants to help carers get the extra help they need to live their own lives. With locally based Network Partners we are able to support carers in their homes through the provision of replacement care, and in the community with information, advice, emotional support, hands on practical help and access to much needed breaks. We offer specialist services for carers of people of all ages and conditions and a range of individual tailored support and group activities.

Our vision is that unpaid carers count and can access the help they need to live their lives.

The voices of young carers from England, Scotland and Wales

All the responses below were given in response to the following question in the Carers Trust survey:

“What difference has Coronavirus made to your life as a young carer or young adult carer?”

England

“When I was in school that was the time for me. Now every day is the same.” 12-year-old female carer in England

“I haven't been able to get out and talk to all my friends after school. I haven't been able to go over to family's houses to stop for a break.” 12-year-old female carer in England

“It has made me feel major cases of depression and anxiety. I feel trapped. Before my freedom to go out was larger now I have to be careful which is fine but I don't go out as much and I feel like I'm losing confidence and my connection with my friends. I have also been gaining a lot of pent up emotions.” 16-year-old female carer in England

“I feel stuck and have no answers on what’s happening, can’t make plans either as my future is uncertain. I’m a lot more stressed and want to cry.” 16-year-old male carer in England

“Not able to get a break from my caring responsibilities, don't know who I can ask for practical help. Parent had surgery just before lockdown so I was left with increased responsibilities without any support.” 17-year-old female carer in England

“Because I am at home all the time, I am always asked to do more. The list just keeps getting bigger and bigger. I can't go out. Work used to be a bit of an escape. I don't have that now. Money is always a worry because of the huge delay in any payments and only getting 80% (things were tight before, they are worse now) We use more food and utilities but there is no help for this.” 19-year-old carer in England

“I'm at home 24/7 other than to walk the dog which is the only time I get away from my caring role. I used to be able to do breaks on the weekend and visit friends or places and do exciting, fun things but I cannot do that now. My mental health is suffering. Some days it doesn’t seem worth getting up as each day is the same.” 21-year-old male carer in England

Scotland

“It’s made it harder. I don’t get any respite, no time away or family support.” 12-year-old female carer in Scotland

“Coronavirus has made it harder to get a break from my caring role and has made me feel more unsafe at home.” 14 year-old-female carer in Scotland

“Has made me more anxious, lost, unconnected, unsure and very sad that we can't hug our dad, nanna, aunts/uncles, cousins and friends. Future so uncertain.” 15-year-old female carer in Scotland

“I’m stressed with having to care and take care of myself as well as struggling to sleep.” 17-year-old male carer in Scotland

“I feel as if it has made it more difficult to care for my father as I have been unable to take care of myself properly.” 18-year-old male carer in Scotland

“The difference now is that I can’t get out of the house for a day and we can’t afford to do or get anything. We are just getting by with only making 80% of our wages. It’s a lot harder to keep on top of the rent and we spend more money on alcohol and cigarettes which makes it harder to afford electricity and some foods. It’s harder to eat fresh and healthy because we can’t afford it at the moment. I have gained a lot of weight since lockdown and it really affects my mental health. Everyone in my household including myself are sick of constantly seeing each other and cabin fever is really bad as well.” 19-year-old female carer in Scotland

“I have no help or support whatsoever now - I’m caring 24/7 and I’m exhausted and mentally drained. My young carers service is closing before lockdown ends so I now won’t have any support and I don’t know how I’m going to cope.” 22-year-old female carer in Scotland

“It has made my caring role more pronounced/taken away other outlets of my life such as study. It has made me feel more isolated from my friends who don't have caring responsibilities.” 24-year-old female carer in Scotland

Wales

“I have lost contact with my friends and I have lost confidence in myself. My overall motivation is very low.” 12-year-old female carer in Wales

“Llai o amser gyda ffrindiau.” (Less time with friends) 12-year-old female carer in Wales

“It has made it difficult to see my friends.” 13-year-old male carer in Wales

“It has put more stress on me and my education and has made my anxiety so high.” 13-year-old female carer in Wales

“Caring for much longer, Too much work piled in front of me from school, no support from teachers,  not being able to contact friends quite often and having no time for myself to do things that normal teenagers are able to do.” 14-year-old male carer in Wales

“It has made me feel more alone and isolated.” 16-year-old female carer in Wales

“It is difficult, my dad doesn't have a physical condition like some others. However he is Bipolar and this can be extremely stressful to deal with, not know what mood he’s going to get in and whether my mother can take any more of it. I love him, but since lockdown I haven't really had any breaks from his dramatic mood changes.” 17-year-old male carer in Wales

“I feel more trapped, feel more pressure to help the person I care for. I don’t sleep as much, and personal hygiene has lowered since my mental health has declined.” 17-year-old female carer in Wales

“Covid 19 has made me realize how much I need my friends and young adult carers group. As I'm not getting much rest or being very social I have fallen behind in college work and gained a lot of weight. My confidence is gone and I feel really lonely.” 18-year-old female carer in Wales

“Coronavirus has meant that I have had to deal with situations that I normally would not in my usual caring role. The lack of movement has caused increased agitation and emotion in the person I care for, which puts stress on the whole family. Having breaks is harder to do, and means I cannot spend weekends working.” 19-year-old female carer in Wales

“I feel completely isolated and just left to my own devices. Before I could at least ask a neighbour to be on call while I went out but now no one will come near the house” 20-year-old female carer in Wales

“As well as my full time education being put on hold, I’m now having to isolate with the person I care for 24/7 without a proper break. This means having to ensure that we both are mentally coping well constantly.” 22-year-old male carer in Wales

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Topics

Coronavirus / Health / UK / Young adult carers / Young carers

 

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