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Small shoulders; big responsibilities – Young Carers in the workplace

Posted on March 15, 2022

Young Carer’s Action Day is an annual event, organised each year to raise awareness for the pressures, challenges and sacrifices that are made by individuals caring for a family member or friend. The life of a young carer can sometimes be disregarded. The resilience, patience and empathy can be carried in such a way that doesn’t make it look heavy – but just because you are caring for someone, doesn’t mean you don’t need your own support. The day not only calls for mindfulness but is a chance to say a special thank you to the thousands of people in the UK who care for someone, and ask how best we can provide support.

A young carer might do more chores than their peers and provide emotional support to the individual they are caring for. They may also learn how to nurse someone or look after personal needs.

Sometimes it can be very hard explaining why you have more responsibilities, or why you might have to miss out on certain occasions due to caring duties.

On average, a young carer misses up to a staggering 48 days of education, and over 60% are unfortunately bullied due to having to care for someone. At Creative Access, we believe that no young persons’ life should be unnecessarily restricted because they are a carer.

Our research showed that 80% of young carers in our community felt like caring had an impact on their health and wellbeing, and that they missed out on opportunities due to caring.

This should simply not be the case. Taking care of someone else should never come at the expense of neglecting yourself.

Being a young carer plays such a valuable role in family relationships and even in society. Many young carers speak fondly of the strong familial bonds formed. When healthy coping mechanisms are adopted, and the right support is given – it’s hard to imagine a world without these individuals who are so strong, kind and selfless. Young Carers Action Day is a brilliant opportunity to recognise this and allow young carers themselves to express what they need. Although many do not have a choice about when or how they become carers, we as a society have a choice on whether we support them adequately.

This year’s Young Carers Action Day follows a theme of isolation – a process we’ve become all too familiar with in the past two years. One definition of isolation is “the fact something is separate and not connected to other things”. This seems vital when discussing being a young carer, an element that can sometimes become your identity, unable to be separated from the other things happening in your life. Young Carers Day sets out to explain that this being a carer is not a negative, but simply a part of someone’s identity, and as a community, we must work on the best ways to support – so that an individual is not separated but connected to a wealth of advice that makes every day a little easier.

Speaking from personal experience as an adult, some aspects of being a young carer never really leave you. Even if you don’t feel like you need help now; it’s helpful to know what support systems are available. Here are some resources we have gathered to support young carers:

  • The Care Act of 2014 and Children and Families Act of 2014 placed responsibilities on local authorities to take a wider approach to families. This means that councils must have arrangements in place to assess the impacts of inappropriate caring responsibilities on young people.
  • Legal stuff can be difficult to navigate and include lots of jargon that’s hard to understand. LawStuff provides free legal information to young people, so definitely worth checking out to know where you stand.
  • You should never neglect your wellbeing, physical or mental health – and must always remember you are not alone. If you feel stressed out by too much responsibility, feel like your mental health is suffering, or are even feeling physically tired, these are all signs that you might benefit from some help. Our first piece of advice would be to confide in someone you trust, another adult or your GP.
  • We’d also recommend finding your local carers centre, who can signpost you to help and support nearby. Young carers who have taken part in studies speak about the support given, which trickled into other areas of their lives. Support groups, days out, flexibility around work or school were all potential benefits available. The importance of relationships with friends in similar situations can be so constructive, encouraging feelings of connection and trust.

At Creative Access, we feel strongly that the culture of silence around being a young carer must end. It has been documented that many are worried about what happens after official interventions or being different from friends, so this prevents many from speaking out. Because of this, some young carers find themselves leading double lives in efforts not to discuss their responsibilities, but this isn’t the way forward. Secrecy invites isolation, it’s so important to open up to someone you trust, or the organisations ready to provide a helping hand – and begin caring for yourself.

Here some other resources that might be helpful for any current young carers:

  • Carers UK– A organisation created to “make life better for carers”. They also have an online forum and helpline (0808 808 7777)
  • Youth Access – An advice and counselling network providing advice to young people aged 12 – 25.
  • Carers Trust is a major charity working to support, provide services for and encourage recognition for young carers. They have an amazing bank of resources that can be found here.
  • Creative Access also has on tips for looking after your mental health by Dr Victoria Mattison, take a look!