Giving Young Carers a voice

Young boy wearing a backpack at school

To mark Carers Rights Day on 25th November 2021, young carers met with the Children’s Commissioner, Dame Rachel de Souza, on Zoom.

Taylor and Lucy from Spurgeons Young Carers were among the 30 young people who took part.

Dame Rachel said that she wanted help for young carers to be a priority, so this was a superb opportunity for those on the call to help her understand some of the challenges they face and what support they need to overcome these.

Taylor explained to Dame Rachel how tricky it was to balance schoolwork with being a young carer. He also felt that if his school had identified him earlier, he would have had support sooner.

Lucy shared that although teachers encourage pupils to pursue higher education, she worries that if she did so, there would be nobody to look after her mum and five-year-old brother.

Lucy also said that some pharmacies will not let her collect her mum’s prescriptions because the dosage is high. Another girl described how she regularly asked to go to the toilet in lessons at school so she could ring her mum to remind her to take her medication.

One boy said that, while all young carers are legally entitled to assessments, he had never had one and that assessments are not even done in some parts of the country.

The young carers also wanted more people to be aware of their existence and what is involved in being a young carer, and for more counselling and mental health support to be available to them.

Dame Rachel promised to further investigate the issues that were raised.

Jason Wilson, Children’s Services Manager at Birmingham Young Carers, says, “Spurgeons Young Carers are part of Young Carers National Voice, a UK-wide group of young carers, some of whom were on the call with Dame Rachel. They were able to raise the group’s concerns about the forthcoming Health and Care Bill which is designed to improve co-ordination between health and social care. The group wants the Bill to do more to address young carer needs and for the Government to take steps to ensure the rights of young carers are implemented.

“For example, they want all school staff and governors to be trained on what it is to be a young carer; for all schools and colleges to have a system to flag young carers and monitor their attendance and attainment, and for a Young Carer Lead on the school staff to help provide support and link with local services. They also want OFSTED to include young carers as a specific group in all inspections, require schools and colleges to identify and refer young carers for support.

Young carers don’t want sympathy – what they want and need is more practical support at all levels of society. It was great that Taylor and Lucy represented Spurgeons on the call and were able to voice their concerns. I am hopeful that the meeting will have an impact

Jason Wilson, Children’s Services Manager at Birmingham Young Carers

Spurgeons provides opportunities for our young carers to have their say, influence decision making and help shape services. But I feel that there’s a real opportunity for us to support them even better by helping to raise public awareness and work with schools and other providers to help identify young carers at an early stage.”

How you can help young carers

It’s likely that there are many ‘hidden young carers’ in society today. If you come across anyone who you think or know is a young carer, please ask them how they are doing and if they are being supported. If they are not, help them to identify and connect with their local Young Carers service.

About Spurgeons Young Carers Services:

Spurgeons delivers support to young people up to the age of 18 who are caring for a family member with an illness or disability in the West Midlands through our Birmingham Young Carers and Wolverhampton Young Carers services. 

The Birmingham Young Carers service was a finalist in two categories at the 2019 Children and Young People Now Awards in the PSHE Education Award and the Young Carers Award for its particular focus on supporting young carers looking after a parent with a drug or alcohol dependency. 

Learn more about our work with Young Carers

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