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The Chief Nursing Officer for England marks Young Carers Awareness Day, which recognises more than 700,000 young people in the UK who provide care and support to family and friends:
As part of the Commitment to Carers NHS England has worked with young carers to make sure that their voices are directing the actions we take to promote awareness and help us make improvements across the NHS.
These are designed to better identify and provide support to meet their needs and to ensure they have choice and balance between being a young person, education, health and their caring responsibilities.
A young carer is someone under 18 who helps look after someone in their family, or a friend, who is ill, disabled or misuses drugs or alcohol. Young adult carers are young people aged 16 – 25 who care, unpaid, for a family member or friend with an illness or disability, mental health condition or addiction (ref Carers Trust 2015). Stories from some of the UK’s young carers can be found on the Carers Trust website.
Young carers perform lots of tasks within their caring responsibilities, which could include:
- Practical tasks – cooking, housework, shopping
- Physical tasks – supporting someone getting out of bed
- Personal care
- Looking after the family budget
- Responsibility for prescriptions and giving someone their medications
- Looking after a parent, brothers and sisters as well as wider family members and sometimes friends
It has long been recognised that there is a key gap in supporting young carers and young adult carers. This includes under-recognising and under-identification of those young people and young adults who have caring responsibilities.
NHS commissioners and providers are working with education, social care and carers’ organisations to continue to improve the identification of young carers and the support that they are offered and receive. For example, East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust will be inviting young carers to an event and will facilitate an activity that supports young carers to discuss, with health professionals, the issues that are important to them.
This will support the Trust nurse leaders to understand how it feels to be a young carer attending the emergency department, what it is like on the wards, and essentially what would make a difference to improve experiences for them and those they care for.
NHS England continues to develop and work towards its Commitment to Carers. Supporting young people with caring responsibilities is a major aspect of this work and includes:
- Developing resources to raise awareness of the needs of young carers, specifically in relation to their mental health and wellbeing
- Resources to help young carers coping with bereavement
- Support for a schools-based programme supporting young carers who have a family member with mental illness
- Promoting a whole family approach to the identification and assessment of carers working in partnership with social care colleagues.
In 2015 young carers worked with us to produce a short film to raise awareness of what is was like to be a young carer.
So today I want to do two things:
I encourage you to think how you engage with young carers and how you can use their experiences and feedback to ensure support is available and accessible to them.
I also want to say a very big ‘Thank you’ to all young carers, who do so much to support others, and from whom we can all learn a lot.