Research by Carers Trust and Nottingham University shows that young people providing unpaid care for friends and family have many fewer opportunities in education and the workplace as a result.

Almost half who had left full time education were unemployed. Over half (54%) felt that they would have got better grades at school if it was not for their caring role and 87% felt that they had not received good career advice at school, and that the advice did not take into account their caring role.

Of those who had been to college or university, 29% have dropped out because of their caring role - four times the national average.

With young adult carers aged between 16 and 18 years twice as likely to be not in education, employment, or training (NEET), the combination of a lack of support in schools and colleges (often leading to underachievement) and inflexibility from employers risks leaving a generation of NEET young adult carers.

Dr Moira Fraser, Director of Policy and Research at Carers Trust, said: “Young people who spend their lives caring for others are having their needs and futures neglected. This research shows us just how far we are from the ideal situation where these young people and their families have the support they need to make choices about their lives, and have the same opportunities to flourish as other young people.

“We are asking employers to acknowledge the caring roles held by young people and adopt flexible policies, which allow the employers to utilise the huge skills of young adult carers - whose life skills and resourcefulness make them a real asset.

“Colleges and universities also need to have the right procedures in place to ensure young carers can be identified and receive the support they need to give them every chance to succeed”.

The research was part of a wider study of young carers and young adult carers aged 14-25 undertaken as part of Carers Trust’s ‘About Time’ Programme, funded by The Co-operative Group, who made Carers Trust their charity of the year for 2013.

Young Adult Carer Terry from Bristol, who is now 21, started caring at 17 for his mother who had Huntington’s Disease. He decided to become her carer because he wasn't comfortable with the idea of anyone else doing it – which meant he had to leave college without gaining any qualifications.

Terry now works five days a week in a pharmacy training to be a health care assistant and sees his mother, who is now in a care home, at the weekend. He says “only since I stopped being a carer, have I noticed how much my own mental health has improved, and realised it must have been fairly poor. I feel much more comfortable in myself now – when I was a carer it was as if everything was moving at a hundred miles an hour all the time and I just couldn't keep up.”

It was with this in mind that Matter (http://youngercarersmatter.org) was created, to counter the isolation of caring. It works like a social media site such as Facebook, while also being a trusted source of advice. It was designed in close consultation with younger carers specifically recruited to help shape it to meet their needs for friendship and information

Professor Saul Becker, Assistant Pro-Vice-Chancellor at the University of Nottingham, said: “Young people need to be protected from undertaking caring responsibilities that will have a negative impact on their life chances as they begin their adult lives.

“This study highlights the high levels of care being undertaken by many young adults and the implications this may have for their health and employment opportunities.