In 2021 we mark a shift for young carers as they demand action to protect their futures. Ahead of Young Carers Action Day, we discover how we can all act to support young carers across the UK.
Each year, the responsibilities and needs of young carers are highlighted on Young Carers Awareness Day, but this year the day has a new name that carries a powerful message: Young Carers Action Day (YCAD), taking place on 16 March 2021.
With the theme of protecting young carers’ futures, the day is calling for measures to better support young carers and their ambitions, and now includes young adult carers, aged 18-25, along with young carers who are under 18.
Rachael, who is 18 and cares for her step dad who has motor neurone disease (MND), was part of a steering group that was integral to the name change and theme for 2021.
“The day is to allow young carers to share and express their opinions, the issues facing them, how they feel support should be put in place and have a say in their future which is extremely important,” expresses Rachael.
The name change is more than a word swap, it shows that action is needed to be put in place for young carers.
“Awareness is good but it’s only awareness, there needs to be change with that; awareness can only do so much,” explains Rachael. “For me, it’s not about one day of the year that marks YCAD, I volunteer throughout the year with several different carers’ centres and organisations so I personally will be doing what I would currently be doing every day.”
Rachael’s thoughts and concerns are shared by Carer’s Trust who run the day.
“It is about raising awareness of young carers across the UK and part of that is wanting to create meaningful change for young carers,” offers Laura Bennett, head of policy at Carers Trust.
“Many more people have an understanding of what a young carer is, but we are not seeing a lasting trend for young carers: we don’t just want to see awareness we want to see action.”
As a young adult carer whose voice has helped influence this year’s theme, Rachael’s main concerns lie around action in education and employment.
“It’s important for schools, employment, and to the general public as well. I feel like people don’t understand what young carers go through on a regular basis so most support isn’t in place,” reveals Rachael. “People forget they are very strong, independent individuals and have so many skills at a young age which should be recognised by schools and employment.”
Carers Trust share concerns around education as research shows that young carers often achieve one grade less at GCSE than non-caring young people, Laura says: “That can affect their mental wellbeing, it’s not good to know that you could have done better than you did and it can affect your future if you are not able to get into college or university or the job you wanted to get because of that.”
The charity’s concerns also link to the attendance of young carers whose school life could be disrupted due to their caring responsibilities or the health of the person they care for.
“Young carers need more so we would like to see schools do more, we would like schools to be monitoring what’s happening with young carers, to monitor attendance and attainment.”
If these concerns are not addressed and additional support isn’t given, it can lead to poor mental wellbeing for young carers.
“There’s a lack of support for young carers going into adulthood, especially for the transition from high school off to college or university,” emphasises Rachael. “It’s so important because if you’re moving away from home that can be very scary and daunting.
Concerns around education and mental health have been exacerbated during the pandemic and lockdowns where young carers may still have access to a school place but are unable to attend due to their caring responsibilities.
“Not all young carers live in poverty but many do and we have concerns about digital access, not everyone has a private space to work or a device to access the internet, so there are lots of concerns for young carers about the ability to manage education,” reveals Laura.
“We also did a survey of young carers last summer about their experience of the pandemic and that showed the time they spend caring has massively gone up so it also means less time to spend on school work.
Young carers are preparing to share their experiences and demanding change. You can help protect young carers’ futures using #YoungCarersActionDay on 16 March.