Data from the UK’s Office of National Statistics (ONS) now highlights the existence of some 6.5 million carers in the UK, equating to 1 in 8 adults (CarersUK). The census, last conducted in 2011, further identifies almost a quarter of a million young carers aged under 19 years. Although large, this figure is widely considered a substantial underestimate, due to the fact that for many children and young people their caring role is “hidden”. Young people in caring roles are often not identified as carers, either formally or by their own self-definition. This is particularly so when a child is caring for a parent, sibling or family member with a mental health issue.
Young carers often take on practical and/or emotional caring responsibilities that would normally be expected of an adult. A young carer may take on additional practical tasks, such as cooking, housework and managing the family budget, collect benefits and prescriptions, administer or monitor medication, look after younger siblings and provide significant emotional support to a parent or family member. Without appropriate support and information, these roles can impact heavily on a child or young person and have significant influence in terms of the child’s own wellbeing, educational attainment and future life opportunities.
At the Meriden Programme, we believe that working with the whole family is an excellent opportunity to develop relationships with young carers and provide age-appropriate information, signposting and practical coping strategies. Elements of BFT including family communication and problem solving skills, coupled with working towards clear personal goals, will prove invaluable in terms of promoting positive outcomes for young people in a caring role.