Carers have revealed the impact Covid has had on them. Image: Matthias Zomer from Pexels
Young carers have experienced a dramatic rise in the number of hours spent caring due to the pandemic, with a lack of support contributing to burnout, loneliness and exhaustion.
To mark Young Carers Action Day this week, the Carer’s Trust revealed more than half of young carers and young adult carers it surveyed said the amount of time they spend caring per week has increased in the past year – with one in five reporting an increase of between 20 and 49 hours per week.
Even before coronavirus, pressures on the health and social care services meant increasing levels of caring responsibilities were falling disproportionately on young carers’ shoulders.
Repeated lockdowns saw many essential services closed down, leaving young carers and young adult carers to take on even more caring responsibilities.
Whilst the pandemic appears to be easing, Covid continues to negatively influence the lives of young carers, and young adult carers.
Laura Bennett, head of policy at Carer’s Trust, told The Big Issue: “We have great legislation in this country to protect young carers’ rights, and they should be able to benefit from assessments of their needs and support packages. But we don’t know enough about how many young carers are actually getting these.”
Carer’s Trust is calling for more support for young carers, after its survey revealed many feel lonely, burnt out and worried.
For example, 59 per cent said they felt more stressed, 47 per cent said their felt less connected to others and 46 per cent said their education was suffering since the pandemic.
One young carer said: “It’s harder than anyone understands and I feel like I’m drowning”.
Another said: “It’s too much pressure and responsibility for something I didn’t choose.”
And a third young carer revealed: “It affected my friendships as they didn’t understand why they couldn’t come inside the house. We have a no phones rule which makes it difficult to keep in contact if needed.”
Bennett added: “While no child or young person should feel lonely, burned-out, stressed, worried or exhausted, for young carers and young adult carers it’s more complex. They are a group of children and young people who are having to put others first, often at the expense of their own education, work, mental health and wellbeing.”
Carer’s Trust is calling on the UK government, the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and other stakeholders, to take action to address isolation among young carers and young adult carers.
They recommend more commissioned breaks and respite for young carers and young adult carers, from local carer organisations.
“Breaks mean that young carers can spend time doing things that are fun for them,” Bennett said.
“Funding transport and leisure opportunities would mean that young carers can go for a swim, get to college or go and meet their friends – all the things that other young people can often more easily do, without the barriers young carers can face.”
Additionally, education providers – either schools, colleges or universities – should take a more integrated and collaborative approach to support, by working in partnership with the NHS, local authorities and local carer organisations.
Responding to the survey findings, Carers Trust’s CEO, Kirsty McHugh, said: “These stark findings underline the plight of young carers. Too many are left unsupported, struggling to access the services they need with knock on effects to their education, mental health and well-being.
“We need more investment in social care generally and local care organisations specifically to relieve young carers of the overwhelming pressure so many are under. In addition, the NHS must ensure its mental health services prioritise young carer support.”