Call for Urgent Action Across Europe to Support Young Carers
European Carers Day 6 October:
identifying, listening to, and supporting, young carers
Today, Eurocarers and its members are calling on all European governments to put in place measures that better support young carers. To do this, firstly we need to identify who these carers are; secondly, we must listen to them; and thirdly, we need to ensure support is in place to enable them to live their lives, whilst they are also empowered to undertake their caring responsibilities if they wish to do so.
This year’s European Carers Day will focus on these young carers and their need for support and challenges, particularly adolescent carers (15 – 17 years old) who are in a key, transitional life stage.
Young carers are individuals under 18 who provide or intend to provide care, assistance, or support to a family member or a friend suffering from chronic illness, disability, frailty or addiction. They assume a level of responsibility which would usually be associated with an adult.
At such a young age they risk having the entire balance of their world thrown upside down, at a pivotal moment in their lives; suddenly becoming the carer, not the cared for, can be a lonely place.
An invisible, unknown, vulnerable, population
Whilst there is no precise figure for the number of young carers in Europe, some pilot projects and available statistics predict that up to 8% of all European children and teenagers are young carers.
No policy change about me, without me – involving young carers
Read the call to action from young carers
Stecy Yghemonos, Director of Eurocarers said:
“We want to shine a light on this significant, largely invisible, population in order to better understand their needs, and to help identify and provide support for them. There can be no meaningful change or support for young carers without their involvement, without listening to them, and most importantly, without reliable and comprehensive data on who they are.”
What is the impact of caring on young carers
We know from the recently published Carer Well-Being Index[i] that the impact of caring on younger people spans not just their own mental health and wellbeing – which is common across all ages of carers – but at this stage in their lives also their educational prospects, and social lives.
Many young people became carers due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with 16% of European younger carers in the Index taking on the role for the first time during 2020[ii], taking its toll on their well-being. With 64% of younger carers in Europe saying that their emotional and mental health was affected by their caregiving responsibilities[iii], and 56% saying it has negatively affected their social life – more needs to be done to support them.
Why are young carers invisible?
There are many reasons why young carers are not easy to identify, for example, they may neither recognise nor describe themselves as young carers. They may be afraid of being taken away from their home by social services/child protection, or of being judged or misunderstood by their peers, teachers, or service providers.
There is also a stigma – especially when a cared for person has mental illness or substance dependency – and they may be uncertain about who to talk to, and where to go for support. In relation to this, they may also believe that nothing will change if they do talk about their caring responsibilities.
We must act now
Crucially, we must listen to young carers.
No policy or practice that impacts young carers should be developed without them. To be part of this affirmative action, to make a difference to young carers, please access and share the resources and further information via the European Carers Day website: http://www.carersday.eu/
Access all the Campaign posters and other digital assets [including translations] here.
Notes to editors:
For further information, images and interviews please contact:
Senior Communication Officer
Or contact the Eurocarers members, details here
Eurocarers brings together carers’ organisations as well as relevant universities & research institutes – a unique combination that enables evidence-based advocacy. Our network works to ensure that care is valued and unpaid care is recognised as central to the sustainability of health and long-term care systems. We believe that carers’ know-how and needs are worth listening to and people should have the right to choose freely whether they want to be a carer, and to what extent they want to be involved in caring. Our aim is therefore to act as a voice for informal carers, irrespective of their age or the particular health need of the person they are caring for by: (1) Documenting and raising awareness about the significant contribution made by carers to health and social care systems and the economy as a whole, and of the need to safeguard this contribution; and (2) Ensuring that EU and national policies take account of carers, i.e. promote their social inclusion, the development of support services, enable them to remain active in paid employment and maintain a social life.
What is a young carer?
Young carers are children and young people under 18 who provide or intend to provide care, assistance, or support to a family member or a friend, who has a chronic illness, disability, frailty or addiction. They assume a level of responsibility which would usually be associated with an adult.
Young carers aged 15-17 are called “adolescent young carers” (AYCs). They deserve special attention, as they are in a key, transitional phase of their development: moving from childhood into adulthood.
The impact of caring
Mental health and wellbeing
There are some positive impacts related to caring, for example young carers can gain satisfaction from caring and experience self-esteem, empathy, maturity. Yet, having to reconcile the challenges that life throws at them with caring responsibilities can be overwhelming. The pressure associated with caring is considered as a risk factor for mental ill-health.
Young carers may face particular barriers in relation to school and further education: they may have frequent lateness, absences and ultimately, they may be forced to drop out. Similarly, it can be challenging to combine paid employment with caring responsibilities.
Young carers may have less time for personal development and leisure and be isolated. They can also become victims of social stigma and bullying and may be more frequently subject to social exclusion throughout their life course.
Despite these negative impacts, young carers are still too often invisible to policy makers and service providers.[i] The Carer Well-Being Index is the largest global comparison study of its kind with 9,000 unpaid^ carers* across 12 countries, including 1,033 unpaid carers to those living with cancer. Commissioned by Embracing Carers®, a Merck-led initiative, in partnership with nine leading global carer organisations, the Index highlights how the pandemic has disproportionally impacted those supporting people with cancer. Embracing Carers® aims to increase awareness, identify key solutions and specific actions in society that can address the critical and specific needs of unpaid carers, including those who support people with cancer, now and in the future