The past year has been difficult for everyone due to the Coronavirus pandemic. However, this time would have been particularly strenuous on those who are young carers. There are an estimated 700,000 young carers in the UK, with approximately 30,000 carers in Wales under 25. In addition, Wales also has the largest proportions of carers under the age of 18 in the UK.
Schools played a crucial role in supporting young carers by providing them with essential respite from their caring duties. With national restrictions in place, including the closure of schools, there is no doubt that this time has been difficult on young carers.
According to Carers Trust Wales, 16% of pupils in Wales secondary schools balance their caring role with school and in their recent survey it was revealed that young carers are struggling to keep up with their learning whilst also having to care at home during the pandemic. Specifically, 45% of young carers did not have sufficient time to spend on school work, with 58% feeling that their education was suffering severely.
In June 2020, the Carers Trust found that although some young carers may have found positives during the pandemic, many more described feeling stressed, unable to cope and overwhelmed by the additional pressures they now face. Those carers who took part in the survey were clear in stating that they wanted and needed:
- Support for their emotional wellbeing and mental health
- Help to stay connected to friends and their communities
- Breaks from their caring role and support of specialist young carers services
- More help to balance caring, education and employment
- Support to stay fit and healthy.
Your Rights in Wales
The Law in Wales is in place so that Young Carers can still enjoy their childhood and access the same rights and opportunities as every other child. Wales has signed up to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) to make sure that every child has rights. Many young people that provide care do not realise that they may be young carers, and you may be one of those people too.
Under the UNCRC, you have the right to:
- To be protected from discrimination (article 2)
- To form and express your own views (article 12)
- To life, survival and healthy development (article 6)
- To spend time with friends (article 15)
- To enjoy opportunities for leisure and to relax and play (article 31)
- To education (article 28 and 29)
These rights have been incorporated into Welsh Law under the Social Services and Wellbeing (Wales) Act 2014 to ensure that children and young people have as much protection as they possibly can. The Act defines a young carer as “a person who provides or intends to provide care for an adult or disabled child”.
How can I get help?
Most young carers have taken on more caring responsibility during the pandemic due to concerns of allowing care workers into their homes and spreading the virus. Others have been concerned about whether they can obtain a needs assessment and have experienced difficulties in accessing food or medication. The current pandemic should not stop the support you can get.
You are entitled to receive an assessment by your local authority. During this assessment your circumstances will be evaluated and you’ll be told what support you can receive from the local authority. They will understand how your situation affects you and what you would like to happen, as well as what those with parental responsibility would like for you too. They will also take into consideration your age. You can read more about this on our blog ‘How to get help if you are a Young Carer like Katniss Everdeen’.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, there has been developments in relation to the support you can receive and you should not think the pandemic puts a stop to this support. Carers Trust Wales’ education programme, with the help of the Welsh Government, has worked across Wales to provide every school with comprehensive training resources for pupils and teaching professionals. This gives teachers the knowledge, skills and tools to ensure their school provides a supportive environment for young carers. The number of teachers with excellent knowledge of what being a young carer meant has now increased during the programme to 61%.
The Welsh Government has also put additional funding towards supporting young carers during the pandemic. They are also encouraging you to still contact your local authority or reach out to a teacher in order to receive the support that you are entitled to, with most local authorities also providing online and over the phone support.