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Young Carers

The Princess Royal Trust for Young Carers

The Youth Voices campaign is all about giving a voice to different issues affecting Muslims in the UK. This time we are focusing on Young Carers as they are an important group of young people who often remain invisible, especially in the Muslim community where caring in the family is often taken for granted. By providing information on who they are and what they do, we want to help raise awareness of these marginalized young people.  Coming soon there will be articles from young carers themselves as a way to share their experiences.

The Princess Royal Trust for Young Carers is a facility for all carers to get support and advice. The Trust has a UK-wide network of 129 Carers Centres supporting 290,000 carers of all ages and is the leading service provider for young carers, with 81 Young Carers Services supporting 15,000 young carers through advice, mentoring, clubs, holidays and whole family support. They also raise awareness and train other agencies. Also, they have developed a website especially for young carers and is a great way to understand what these young people go through and the help that is available.

What is a young carer? Young carers are children and young people who look after someone in their family who has an illness, a disability, a mental health problem or a substance misuse problem. Young carers take on practical and/or emotional caring responsibilities that would normally be expected of an adult.  Around 3 million children in the UK have a family member with a disability. Not all take on a caring role that is inappropriate to their age. Few parents want their children to be carers but it can happen because there is inadequate support available for the disabled person or because the family is too afraid of outside interference to ask for help.

Young carers – the statistics

The 2001 census estimates that there are 175 000 young carers in the UK. 13,000 care for more than 50 hours per week. Latest NSPCC research suggests that 4% of children will be young carers at some point during their childhoood. Government estimates 250 000 young people living with parental substance misuse. 1.3m children live in homes where one or both parents have an alcohol problem. 57% of known young carers are girls, 43% boys. The Princess Royal Trust for Young Carers support carers as young as 5. 

Unfortunately many young carers experience loneliness and isolation, suffering bullying due to the nature of the illness in the family ("Your Mum’s a psycho"). It is rare to meet a young carer who has not been bullied as a result of their caring role. Some protect vulnerable parents from their negative feelings at home, but cannot keep them in at school. The real reasons for a young carer’s behavioural problems are rarely discovered until it is too late to help them change.

Why are young carers hidden?

Most young carers receive no help during their childhood. Some fear they will be bullied if other young people find out. Services for adults often fail to recognise their clients’ needs as a parent and professionals make assumptions about a person’s parenting ability based on prejudice. Services that support adults and those that support children fail to communicate. Families are often wary of services and conceal mental illness and substance misuse, while some parents don’t recognise their child’s caring role. This is a particular concern in the Muslim community where families are very privatized and feel that it is the childrens duty to look after their family without outside help. Sadly, it seems that often it is girls who sometimes have to give up going to college or pursuing their own dreams in order to look after family members.

However, it is not all doom and gloom, although being a young carer is very hard for the individual, some do find their role quite rewarding at times and are appreciated by their family. Also, as Muslims it must be noted that we do believe that these individuals may reap in bountiful rewards in the Afterlife Inshall’Allah and we should try and give support to a young carer however we can.

*All Information has been kindly provided by The Princess Royal Trust for Young Carers Bushra Khanom  

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