I’d like to think most of us see caring for others as an enormous privilege. We take our obligations to support the wellbeing of those nearest and dearest to us seriously, and we discharge those obligations with compassion, dignity and respect.
But it is very rarely a choice – even if it is a change in circumstance we accept willingly.
As we mark this year’s Young Carers Awareness Day, it’s worth reminding ourselves that caring responsibilities can begin anytime, anywhere and at almost any age.
As many as one in five secondary school children may be caring for parents, siblings or other close relatives at home – often without anyone outside their immediate family or friends knowing.
Indeed, some children begin their caring journey as young as five, but whatever their age, their love, care and understanding deserves to be acknowledged and supported.
It’s perhaps not surprising then that young carers on average achieve nine grades lower in their exams than classmates who don’t have regular caring responsibilities.
It’s important then that we reach out to these young people sooner, provide additional support and mitigate this unfair impact on their health, happiness and life goals.
That’s why, on Young Carers Awareness Day, I am delighted to support the aims of Carers Trust’s new Count Me In campaign.
Count Me In calls on schools, colleges in collaboration with local authorities, health and care providers, and others, to do what they can to identify young carers sooner and offer them the care, support and recognition they rightly deserve.
The good news is that Government have already begun good work in this space too.
Indeed, as part of our cross-government Carers Action Plan (CAP), a two year focused programme of activities to improve support for unpaid carers which began in 2018 - and the government have collaborated with Carers Trust and NatCen to develop best practice guidance to identify young carers much earlier in their lives.
The CAP contains many more exciting projects, including research exploring the potential of a national recognition scheme – a possible identification gamechanger! We also hope to invite young carers to parliament later this year to make sure all MPs understand more about what it means to be a young carer in modern Britain.
What we do know right now is that caring for loved ones can be isolating, physically wearing and emotionally stressful at any age. Children and young people deserve health, happiness and fulfilling lives alongside caring - just like anyone else.
Have a happy Young Carers Awareness Day.
Read Minister of State (Minister for Care),Caroline Dinenage’s biography.
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