Thousands of young carers are struggling to fulfill their potential because of responsibilities at home, a new survey has revealed.
Research from the Carers Trust has shown that almost three-quarters of young carers (73%) take time off school to look after a family member, while nearly 60% struggle to meet deadlines.
“Being a young carer should not mean that a child’s future hopes, dreams, and ambitions are shattered,” chief executive of the Carers Trust Gail Scott-Spicer said.
There are an estimated 700,000 young carers in the UK, some aged as young as five.
At least 13,000 of these young people provide more than 50 hours of care every week on top of their studies.
The research, released on Young Carers Awareness Day, paints a worrying picture of the stresses these children and teenagers face.
“We know young carers miss or cut short on average 10 weeks of school a year as a direct result of their caring role, and those aged between 16 and 18 years are twice as likely to be not in education, employment or training,” Scott-Spicer continued.
“We must make sure young carers get the support they need so they can enjoy their childhoods like any other young person and achieve their ambitions.”
Of the 302 young carers surveyed by the charity, more than half (53%) said they had problems coping with schoolwork, while 82% reported stress.
One young woman said: “I wanted to be like everyone else and go to university, but I suffered a breakdown, and only achieved the lowest grade in my degree.
“I couldn’t go far from my parents as I had responsibilities and their lives really went to shit with me not being there to run the house.
“I haven’t gone back to live there as it is too hoarded and it is no good for my mental health but their struggle is far greater now which brings me a lot of guilt”.
Another young carer said he struggled to find a job because of his struggles at school.
“Because I became a carer during my GCSE’s which resulted in me having anxiety and depression, so my focus in school and in lessons went down.”
Richard Watts, chair of the Local Government Association’s children and young people board, said good relationships between schools, council and the NHS were “crucial” in making sure young carers are able to “live their lives to the fullest”.
“Every young carer has a right to an assessment to find out if they need additional support, and councils will do all they can to provide this support where needs are identified,” Watts said.
“However, councils need the support of all members of the community to help identify young carers to make sure that their needs can be assessed quickly, and the necessary support provided.”
The Carers Trust is calling on school pupils and teachers to dress up as their dream job character to raise money for young carers. For more information, visit carers.org