Child Carers: Their Rights Under the Law
It is estimated that for every five people in Britain, three will at some point during their lives operate a caring role for another person. Often, if one or both parents of a child suffer from a disability or illness, it can be left to the child to adopt the caring role.
Types Of ResponsibilityYoung carers don’t just look after parents; they may also look after a brother or sister who has a disability or illness. Children caring for others find themselves doing a wide range of household and day-to-day tasks. These can involve paying the bills, shopping, washing, cooking and cleaning the house. They may also need to help their parent dress, wash, go to the toilet or administer medicine.
Help Available for Young CarersYoung carers, more than any other type of carer, need to be understood, supported and helped to cope with the extra burdens on them. There is a substantial amount of help available for young carers, and all local authorities should ensure that these children obtain the same level of education and development as their peers, and that their general wellbeing is not affected by their caring responsibilities.
If a child feels stressed, is struggling to cope, or simply needs someone to talk to, it is important to ask for help as soon as possible. The good news is that no matter where you live, there’s likely to be help nearby.
Young Carers ProjectsThere are many Young Carers Projects around the country, which offer a wide range of help and services to young carers. They can offer evening clubs, days out and weekends away, as well as holidays – which gives both the parent and the young carer some respite. As well as offering advice and information for the whole family, Young Carers Projects provide a specific source of support for young carers, such as a friend or mentor to help and support them whenever they need it.
The Health ServiceIf a child wants to talk to someone in confidence, doctors and school nurses are bound by a duty of confidentiality. The only exception to this is if the medical professional believes that the child may be in danger. Generally, though, if a child is making enquiries about his or her own health, it is assumed that they are mature enough to have the information they disclose confidential. NHS Direct (tel 0845 4647) offers a helpline service for which children do not have to disclose their names or other personal details.
If a young carer is suffering from stress, anxiety or just wants to talk through some of their problems, it may be worth contacting the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) to see if they can provide a counsellor. Childline offers support and a listening ear for children and young people, and can be contacted on 0800 1111.