23/11/2015 10:30 GMT | Updated 23/11/2016 05:12 GMT

Young Carers Need to Know Their Rights

A fantastic thing happened this year. For the first time, children and young people under 18 in England, who look after a friend or family member, got their rights to assessment and support recognised.

This group of young people - known as young carers - can find themselves with enormous responsibilities you'd usually find a tall order to cope with even as an adult looking after, for example, a parent with a long term illness or a sibling with a disability. It can mean they miss out on things other children and young people take for granted - going to school, hanging out with friends, going to clubs and activities.

Many find themselves bullied because they are different from their peers and many struggle with their own physical or mental health. Before this year, they had no specific rights under the law and very few had an assessment of their own needs.

The new rights mean these young people should be identified, they should have an assessment, and councils should work with families to reduce any caring roles which are excessive or harmful, meaning children don't have to take on so much and can have their childhood, as they should be able to expect.

So these new rights in the Children and Families Act 2014 are a step forward. But the trouble is, if you don't know you have them or what they are, they don't help that much.

So that's where Carers Trust comes in,.

This week we've published a Know Your Rights Guide for young carers and young adult carers in England. We worked with young people who told us what it should look like and what information they needed. We've tried to make it easy to understand and divided it into sections, explaining rights for younger carers, their rights when moving into adulthood and rights for young adult carers.

The responsibility shouldn't be on children and young people to know their rights and be able to ask for them though - local councils should be actively identifying young carers and young adult carers in their area to make sure they are getting the support they need, The Act says they should do this - and we hope they are taking this duty seriously.

We know, however, far too often the onus does end up being on the child. We hope this guide will help young carers and young adult carers to feel empowered to ask for what they're entitled to. We hope our Know Your Rights guide will give them the confidence to feel able to ask for the support they need.

The guide is available free at, or young carers can search #rights on Babble

Support for young carers is available from Carers Trust's network of local carers centres, and online at Babble and Matter.