Over the last decade there has been a dramatic increase in the number of people who are regarded or regard themselves as carers, due to a strong carers movement that has the support of this government. Those who were regarded as spouses, parents and siblings are now just regarded as carers, and while family members may sometimes be wrong, society believes carers always know best, even when it is far from the case.
Where there is a carer, it is regarded there is a person, more a burden, who 'lacks capacity' and needs 'looking after' like they no longer have a say in the matter. While some caring relationships may indeed be like this, it is not in every case and I always found the term carer has been used against me to undermine my intelligence when people ask to speak to 'my carer'. It frightens me when the carers movement talk about how much money they have saved the government because they have not asked social services to put their 'loved ones' in care, like their burdens have no say in the matter, as it hints at how society really regards disabled people.
One thing that really worries me is the rise in 'young carers' and how society seems to simply accept this with little understanding, which I regard as a form of child abuse. The definition of a young carer is often confusion and one issue I feel is wrong is that carer organisations like to label non-disabled siblings as 'young carers' when they have disabled siblings, where no caring relationship exists. The reason for this is often to boost the number of young carers on paper for their own funding requirements and while this white lie may appear harmless, this mislabelling can causes inequality in the relationships within a family that can emotionally split the family from a disabled child well into their adulthood due to unnecessary resentment to what was in fact an interdependent relationship.
I should make it clear that there is nothing wrong with children helping out around the house, even if that includes helping with supporting their parents or other family members, like pushing grandma in town, because that is a part of how any family works and does not make them carers, as we all help each other out in differing situations. My concern is when a child is forced by their circumstances to look after and/or take responsibility for their parents, and that compromises their education and opportunities to play and develop. If a parent is not able to emotionally and practically look after a child then the child may just have to look after themselves and even their parents. It must be noted it is often not parents with traditional impairments who are the ones who are reliant on their children since they would have fought hard to be parents and want to be good parents.
We are talking about more likely parents who have issues with drug or alcohol, or any condition that is undiagnosed and/or unmanaged. In these situations, the child, who can be as young as four or five, is often the responsible adult in dealing with outside agencies, having to look after themselves and their parents. And what is society's, government's and carer's organisations' response to this form of child slavery? To offer the child a week's respite, maybe a support group, possibly a medal and they may as well add a lollipop. When I hear that the government is advising schools to be sensitive to the needs of 'young carers' and give them the time off from their education so they can look after mum, I just want to scream.
I strongly believe parents have a responsibility to be parents regardless of how incapacitated they are. If they have a drug or alcohol problem, they must sort it out but the problem is the country is appalling at supporting people in this situation, or indeed with mental health issues in general. So rather then help parents become the parents they have a responsibility to be, this country now feels it is acceptable to rebadge child slavery as 'young carers', adding a bit of sugar into the mix to make this terrible situation look acceptable.
What is happening may not be as shocking and headline grabbing as the abuses of Jimmy Saville, but society's and the government's reliance on innocent children to sweep the drug and alcohol problem we have under the carpet is far worse as government sanctioned abuse. Children must have the right to be children and enjoy as much of their childhood as they can. Any parent who is not able to give their child this should be helped or failing that, have their children removed from them, not just allow their children to become their slave-like 'carers'.
Nothing will change here until society stops looking at 'young carers' with sweetness and compassion for the wonderful job their do, and realise that this is child abuse and it should no longer be tolerated, then we may finally get to grips with emotional wellbeing in this country!