Nearly three quarters (72 per cent) of young carers feel lonely during the summer holidays, according to worrying new research¹ released today by Action for Children and Carers Trust.
The survey of young carers under 18 years old reveals nearly half (47 per cent) spend more than four hours a day during the summer caring for a relative – the equivalent of losing an entire week of their holidays².
And while many families are enjoying quality time together on a trip away, thousands of young carers are stuck at home – shockingly, one in five (20 per cent) said they have never been on a summer holiday with their family.
With so much time taken up caring for loved ones and less time to relax, more than two thirds (68 per cent) feel more stressed or worried during the holidays; while more than half (57 per cent) worry about talking about what they did in the summer break when they go back to school.
There are an estimated 700,000 children and young people across the UK³ caring for a family member with a disability, illness or mental health problem - some as young as five years old. Typically, young carers help with practical tasks around the home such as cooking, housework and shopping; physical care, such as helping someone out of bed; and personal care, such as helping someone dress.
Funded support for vulnerable young carers, such as respite services, continues to be put on the back-burner. Action for Children and Carers Trust are calling on the government to ensure local authorities have the funding they need to provide all young carers and their families with support. Without it these vulnerable children and families are left without help, which hugely affects young carers’ life chances.
Carol Iddon, Action for Children’s managing director of children’s services, said: “The summer holidays can be heart-breaking for young carers who are often isolated and trapped at home, while their friends are having fun in the sunshine, playing sports or enjoying adventures abroad.
“We see first-hand the awful impact of loneliness and stress on young carers, who dedicate their lives to helping their loved ones. These children are often desperate for a break from their duties and to have a bit of fun in their holidays – that’s why young carer respite services are such a lifeline for them.”
Giles Meyer, chief executive of Carers Trust, said: “Summer can be an incredibly difficult time for young carers who may feel more stressed, lonely or sad than usual, and long to have a summer holiday just like everyone else. Carers Trust know that too many young carers go without support over the holidays and our evidence shows that being a young carer is a risk factor for their mental health.
“Whilst our joint Young Carers in Schools programme provides many young carers with the support they need to do well during term time, this support doesn’t happen in the holidays when schools are closed; if local councils don’t step in, this can mean young carers need to do more caring over the summer.”
Case study: 14-year-old Jess Siagian from Carlyon Bay in Cornwall is a young carer for her brother Jacob, 13, who is severely mentally and physically disabled. Apart from five hours a week when a professional care worker takes over, Jess and her mum Natalie are his sole carers during the summer.
Jess said: “Jacob has quadriplegic cerebral palsy and is registered blind, so we need to be with him all the time. My mum and I take it in turns caring for him and we have to do everything including getting him out of bed in the morning, giving him a bath and dressing him.
“I dread the extra hours I have to do in the summer holidays as it can get very boring. It’s really hard for us go out as a family – so we end up staying at home a lot. Even if I just need a lift to go and see my friends, we have to get Jacob into the car. I spend most nights face-timing with friends to stay in contact rather than meeting up.”
Young carer services offer carers a break from their caring responsibilities, as well as provide practical and emotional support to enjoy life and achieve, just like their peers. Projects often take them on day trips and residential breaks as well as help them access education and mental health services.
NOTES TO EDITOR
¹ Action for Children and Carers Trust polled 270 young carers from their services in June and July 2018 via a Survey Monkey online survey and hard copy print-outs which were uploaded onto the Survey Monkey platform. Due to their isolation, lack of internet access and infrequent engagement with services, there are significant difficulties in reaching young carers.
² 4 hours caring a day x 7 days = 28 hours x 6 weeks summer holiday = 168 hours = 1 week (24 hours x 7).
³ Carers Trust
- HOW ACTION FOR CHILDREN WORKS: Action for Children helps disadvantaged children across the UK through intervening early to stop neglect and abuse, fostering and adoption, supporting disabled children, and by campaigning tirelessly to make life better for children and families. With over 550 services the charity improves the lives of more than 300,000 children, teenagers, parents and carers every year. actionforchildren.org.uk
- Carers Trust is a major charity for, with and about carers. We work to improve support, services and recognition for anyone living with the challenges of caring, unpaid, for a family member or friend who is ill, frail, disabled or has mental health or addiction problems. www.carers.org
- We do this with a UK wide network of quality assured independent partners and through the provision of grants to help carers get the extra help they need to live their own lives. With these locally based Network Partners we are able to support carers in their homes through the provision of replacement care, and in the community with information, advice, emotional support, hands on practical help and access to much needed breaks. We offer specialist services for carers of people of all ages and conditions and a range of individually tailored support and group activities.