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16/11/2010

Young Carers Four Times Over Official Figures

Up to 700,000 children could be acting as carers for members of their families, more than four times the previous official estimate.

A survey of over 4,000 secondary school pupils across the UK for BBC News suggested that 8% of them – around one in 12 – had moderate or high levels of care responsibilities.

Translated across the UK as a whole that would mean 700,000 children under 18 are regularly caring intimately for a close relative, including helping them bathe, dress or go to the toliet. The previous estimate, based on the 2001 census, put the figure at 175,000.

A survey of 4,029 pupils from ten UK secondary schools asked about the level of responsibility a young person has in the home and the types of caring activity undertaken by the young person. Of these 4,029 school pupils, 337 (8%, or 1 in 12) said they had over the preceding month carried out personal care of someone in their home either "a lot of the time" or "some of the time". This includes helping the person they care for to dress, undress, wash, bath or shower. These types of personal or intimate tasks are recognised as the most difficult and embarrassing types of care both for young people to give, and for adults to receive.

Of those who responded to the survey, 29% said they had carried out "emotional care or supervision" of someone in their home either "a lot of the time" or "some of the time" over the preceding month. This includes keeping the person they care for company. While it's impossible to class all of these as young carers, many will be coping with mental illness or substance abuse in their homes.

Children's Minister, Sarah Teather, said: "This research from BBC News shows the reality of what is really going on with young carers. Many young people are happy and proud to care for a family member, but it is shocking to see that they don't get the support they need or the recognition they deserve.

"The Government wants to help which is why we are launching a new strategy for carers today, which makes it clear that everyone working with young people and their families including GPs and teachers must do more to identify and support young carers."

(BMcN/GK)

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