New census figures highlight shocking numbers of young carers missing out on their childhoods.

The largest UK carers charity, Carers Trust, today called on the government to recognise the needs of young carers, using the legislation announced in the Queen’s Speech.

The figures released today from the 2011 census show a 19% increase in the number of young carers aged under 18. Startlingly there has been an 83% increase in the number of 5-7 year olds providing unpaid care.

There has also been a 25% in the number of young adult carers aged 16-25, highlighting the need to support this vulnerable group as they make the transition into adulthood. As a group they are twice as likely not to be in education, employment and training.

This worrying increase in the number of children caring for family and friends, along with the estimated half a million unidentified young carers referenced in the BBC’s 2010 research, clearly demonstrates that the law needs to protect this vulnerable group of children and young people.

However, the Government has not yet acted to reform the law for young carers and a historic opportunity to improve young carers lives will be missed unless changes are made to both the Children and Families Bill and Care Bill.

It is critical that there are changes to adult law, so that adults receive the right care and support and children are not relied upon by their family in a way that has a negative impact on their health and ability to engage in education.  Unless changes are made to the law, young carers will be left with unequal rights to adults caring for adults.

Dr Moira Fraser, Director of Policy and Research at Carers Trust, said: “The census shows what an important this issue is for our society, and we know there are many more young carers not picked up by the census figures.

Young carers often find themselves looking after family members or friends, missing out on opportunities for education and development that their friends take for granted. Schools, doctors, and everyone in a position to identify young people in caring roles, need to make it their business to ensure they get the support they need.

“The Government must act now to ensure that children who are young carers are protected and supported by legislation, so that there are clear duties for supporting young carers and their families across adult and children’s social care.”

Carers Trust currently helps approximately 24,500 young carers, between the age of five and 18, to cope with their caring role through 107 specialised young carers’ services across the UK.

These services are delivered by Network Partners, who are independently managed charities, offering young carers a chance to be young people free from their caring responsibilities through activities, clubs, outings, holidays and one-to-one support. 

Young carers can also turn to Carers Trust’s interactive website, which provides information, advice, email support and supervised message boards and chat sessions for young carers wherever they are across the UK.

Carers Trust work to address the hidden issue of caring has seen it secure its first ever Charity of the Year partnership. Its year-long relationship with The Co-operative is not only raising vital money but, with more than 7 million members and operations in every UK postal area, its work with The Co-operative will deliver a step change in public awareness.