In most European countries, there is a lack of awareness and visibility of young carers. Identification of young carers by adults and professionals is therefore crucial for providing support. This is one of the conclusions of research that was conducted with 66 experts and young carers from 10 European countries.
Growing up with an ill family member is a risk factor for mental health and well-being of young carers. It is known that they often experience the consequences of social exclusion, with higher absenteeism and drop-out rates from education and lower employability than their peers without an ill family member.
Care burden also includes worries
In families where one family member has a physical or mental health problem, children or adolescents are often involved in caregiving roles. They carry out, often on a regular basis, caring tasks and assume a level of responsibility that would usually be associated with an adult. These tasks are, among others, administrative or household tasks, personal or nursing care or providing company to an ill family member. But it is not only the practical tasks young carers are preoccupied with. They also worry in their heads and in their hearts over the health and well-being of their family member.
Identification of young carers is the first step
Experts that were engaged in the research expressed the future needs of young carers. They argued that adults and professionals need to be better trained at identifying young carers, so they can identify who and where they are, and can offer support. Although awareness is slowly increasing in most countries, especially in the United Kingdom, it still remains challenging to identify young carers in many countries.
Legislation to formalise the rights of young carers
Furthermore, the level and type of support available to young carers differs, with most countries mainly offering support on a local level. Experts highlighted the importance of specific legislation to formalise the rights of young carers. They also emphasised the relevance of available integrated support services, including schools, family, health and social care. And that whenever support is developed – in digital or non-digital form – it should always be developed in co-creation with young carers to fit their needs and preferences.