Information for professionals
Many children and young people who undertake caring roles do not identify themselves as a young carer.
For some, it’s because of concerns about being stigmatised, whilst for others it may be because it’s what they’ve always done and is ‘normal’ for them. In some circumstances the family do not want the child or young person identified as a young carer, for fear of being seen as ‘bad parents’. However, by providing information to the young person and their family about supports that are available, these fears can be allayed and the impact of caring can be reduced.
Identifying young carers
Social workers and teachers have been widely recognised as the people who are potentially most likely to identify hidden young carers. In school young carers often present as mature for their age with no or few peer relationships. Further indicators of being a young carer are:
- Often late or miss school for no apparent reason – commonly with parental permission.
- Difficulty joining in extracurricular activities
- Isolated or a victim of bullying
- Underachiever – homework either late or of poor quality.
- Anxiety or concern over ill/disabled relative
- Behavioural problems – many young carers display swings in mood/temperament.
- Extrovert when coping/things are going well at home, aggression when they are not coping with pressure.
- Often tired or withdrawn
Professionals working with adults with disabilities/illnesses play an important role in supporting and identifying young carers. By asking clients who else cares for them at home, if they have children and what impact their health problem has on them, hidden young carers can be identified and supported.
Assessing a young carers needs…
Professionals working with children and young people should ask 5 key questions:
- What is getting in the way of this child or young person’s well-being?
- Do I have all the information I need to help this child or young person?
- What can I do now to help this child or young person?
- What can my agency do to help this child or young person?
- What additional help, if any, may be needed from others?
South Lanarkshire Young Carers may be able to provide professionals with resources to enable them to assess the needs of all children and young people.
In addition to these resources professionals may find the tool developed by Prof Saul Becker useful in ascertaining the level of a young carer’s responsibilities and the impact on their lives. The tool is called ‘The caring jobs I do’ and a new version of the document will be available to download from here soon.
Professionals should ensure that plans for the cared-for-person do not rely on children and young people carrying out inappropriate caring roles.