The report, ‘Invisible and in distress: prioritising the mental health of England’s young carers’ explains that caring is a risk factor for children and young people’s mental health, which continues to be little understood and is often invisible to professionals and policy-makers.
Today’s report makes policy recommendations aiming to improve the awareness and support of young carers’ mental health. The recommendations include:
- The upcoming Government Carers Strategy should include measures to promote young carers’ mental health and improve their access to mental health support.
- Local authority commissioners should increase the sustainability and stability of young carers services and support partnership working between young carers services and mental health services.
- National and local government should ensure that they meet their duties to support young carers under the Children and Families Act 2014 and Care Act 2014.
- The Department for Education should assist with the development of improved support in schools for young carers, for example, schools’ participation in the Young Carers in Schools programme.
The report also cites key evidence showing that young carers have worse mental health than their peers:
- The 2011 Census found that young carers providing 50+ hours of care a week were up to five times more likely to report their general health as ‘Not good’.
- A survey of 350 young carers found 48% said being a young carer made them feel stressed and 44% said it made them feel tired.
- A survey of 61 young carers in school found that 38% had mental health problems.
Emma, a young carer, said:
“From a personal point of view, growing up as a young carer I've had to overcome many different challenges to my peers, in my caring role, which have impacted on my mental health.
“As a young person who does suffer from mental health problems, and caring for a parent with a range of mental and physical health problems it is something I feel does need change. Better mental health services would definitely be a start as I feel this would benefit young carers especially, particularly when times are tough and when we don't know where to turn, as this can have drastic problems such as during exams.
“I definitely want to see a change in the mental health services available for young carers.”
A joint meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Groups on Mental Health and Carers will discuss the charity’s report later today.
Gail Scott-Spicer, Chief Executive of Carers Trust said:
“Carers Trust is concerned there are thousands of young carers in England who are in distress and whose mental health needs are invisible to services.
“The evidence is clear that young carers’ mental health can be impacted by their caring roles. From the NHS to local authorities, from schools to government departments, we are calling for the prioritisation of young carers’ mental health.
“Carers Trust’s network of carers services are ready and waiting to work with local authorities, the NHS and schools to support young carers. We must act now to ensure that support is there for young carers who are doing so much to help others.”
James Morris MP, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Mental Health, said:
“I am proud that we have been able to hold this discussion on young carers’ mental health, the first of its kind. While local areas are making plans for transforming services for children’s mental health, I believe this is an important time to increase awareness of young carers and ensure the new plans recognise their needs.”
Dr Dan Poulter MP, co-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Carers, said:
“I hope this event will mark a step forward in recognising children’s caring roles as a risk factor for mental health. The new Carers Strategy provides an important opportunity to coordinate better support for young carers.”
The event’s agenda has been shaped by young carers themselves – giving them a voice on these important issues - and follows on from a roundtable discussion about the mental health of young carers, hosted by Carers Trust in November 2015.