According to the last census, Wales has over 11,000 carers under the age of 18, caring, unpaid, for a friend or family member. This is the highest proportion of carers under the age of 18 in the UK. Yet Welsh Government figures show that only 791 young carers were known to local authorities in 2014-15 and even fewer received needs assessments – less than 10% of the young carers in Wales.
The Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 comes into power in Wales on the 6 April 2016 and brings with it new rights and entitlements for carers. The Act broadens the definition of a carer which means more people than ever before will have a right to a carer’s assessment. The Act also requires local authorities to provide support to young and young adult carers and to take into account the transitions young and young adult carers make from school to further education, higher education, and employment.
Kieron Rees, Policy and Public Affairs Manager at Carers Trust Wales, said “In the last census, Wales had the highest proportion of young carers in the UK, and we know this figure is likely much higher. That local authorities in Wales know of so few young carers is a problem we must all confront. These children and young people face huge challenges in their daily lives, and the help they need is too often not there.
“This Act gives us the opportunity to do right by Wales’ young carers. The contribution they make helps hold up our NHS and social services, it’s time we recognised this and made sure they got the support they need to learn, to live, and to thrive.”
Saffron Jones, a young adult carer, said “I grew up as a young carer. I have helped care for my mother all of my life- she has Limb Girdle Muscular Dystrophy, which means she is in constant deterioration and is immobile. Having this muscle wasting disease attracts secondary illnesses, which has resulted in her having heart and lung complaints too.
“Trying to put into words the importance of identifying young carers is an impossible task. It is absolutely vital that young carers are recognised and are acknowledged. Without having sufficient support networks and respite, the caring role could become overwhelming and therefore have detrimental effects upon the young person.
“Throughout my childhood my caring role was practically invisible - no authoritative person acknowledged my role as a carer and therefore life often felt quite confusing and different when compared to that of my classmates. However, at age 11 I was identified as a young carer and joined a local young carer service. This was undoubtedly one of the most significant things that happened during my childhood. It allowed me to understand my own life in a way I was never able to see before.
“Life as a young carer was so different once I had been recognised in my role and more importantly had been accepted for how I lived my life. I was no longer confused and was proud to call myself a young carer.
“We’re not asking for a magic wand- and most of us don’t want one anyway, but a little bit of support and recognition could mean the world to a young person who lives life knowing that the future is uncertain. “