Around 175,000 young people across the UK care for parents, siblings or other relatives who are sick, disabled or in need of support or supervision. These young people, under the age of 18, often assume a level of caring responsibility usually expected of adults.
Now, for the first time, researchers and professionals in the field of health and social care have a standard set of tools (or questionnaires) specifically designed to help them measure the amount and nature of caring tasks performed by young carers and the effect that this demanding role can have on these young people’s lives.
A team of experts at The University of Nottingham — Young Carers International Research and Evaluation (YCI) — with funding from Comic Relief and in association with The Princess Royal Trust for Carers, have produced the pioneering “Manual for Measures of Caring Activities and Outcomes for Children and Young People”.
The tools can be used before, during and after young carers receive support — in order to measure changes in caring responsibilities and outcomes over time. Knowing whether or not an intervention works will help to ensure that the support young careers receive will help protect them from taking caring responsibilities that might be harmful to their health and well-being.
Professor Saul Becker, Head of the School of Sociology and Social Policy and YCI Director, said: “The outcome measurement tools that we have designed will help to generate reliable hard evidence on how different projects and interventions impact on young carers’ lives, health, well-being and caring responsibilities. We hope that this will be a major advance in future outcome-based work with young carers and their families.
“In addition to the tools being used by projects funded by the Comic Relief Grants programme, we have been contacted by others across the world that are looking to use the tools for research or evaluation purposes, including researchers in South Africa and Australia.”
Over 350 projects and services across the UK are already in contact with around 30,000 young carers. The 2001 census estimated that there are 175,000 young carers in the UK, including 13,000 who spend over 50 hours a week caring for family members. The Princess Royal Trust for Carers believes that the real number is much higher as the work of many young carers is hidden due to the stigma, fear of outside interference, and concern that the family may be split up.
Almost a third of young carers have serious education problems, many fail to attain any GCSEs, they suffer loneliness and isolation, verbal taunts and abuse at school, they get behind with homework and some eventually end up as truants.
Alex Fox, Director of Policy and Communications at The Princess Royal Trust for Carers, said: “We believe that, in an ideal world, no child should have to take on caring roles that are more appropriate for adults. Neither the child nor the person being cared for would choose this situation. Sadly, due to low levels of awareness of the issues and patchy support services, this situation is a reality for many children. The development of these tools will enable young carers projects and services to identify the most effective ways of supporting young carers in order to ensure that the extent of inappropriate or harmful caring responsibilities taken on by children is reduced, positive outcomes for children are produced and to provide useful learning for other organisations considering similar work.”
Gilly Green, Head of UK Grants at Comic Relief, said: “The expertise of The Princess Royal Trust for Carers through its network of Young Carers projects, combined with the significant work being carried out at The University of Nottingham will make a huge difference to more young carers throughout the UK.”
The Manual has been produced amid growing recognition of young carers by governments in the UK and overseas, as well as policy makers and practitioners working in health, social care and education.
It has been developed and authored by Stephen Joseph, Professor of Psychology, Health & Social Care, Fiona Becker, a Senior Research Fellow in the School of Sociology & Social Policy and Saul Becker. The Manual can be downloaded free of charge from www.carers.org and www.saulbecker.co.uk.
Notes to editors
: The University of Nottingham is ranked in the UK's Top 10 and the World's Top 100 universities by the Shanghai Jiao Tong (SJTU) and Times Higher (THE) World University Rankings.
More than 90 per cent of research at The University of Nottingham is of international quality, according to RAE 2008, with almost 60 per cent of all research defined as ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’. Research Fortnight analysis of RAE 2008 ranks the University 7th in the UK by research power. In 27 subject areas, the University features in the UK Top Ten, with 14 of those in the Top Five.
The University provides innovative and top quality teaching, undertakes world-changing research, and attracts talented staff and students from 150 nations. Described by The Times as Britain's “only truly global university”, it has invested continuously in award-winning campuses in the United Kingdom, China and Malaysia. Twice since 2003 its research and teaching academics have won Nobel Prizes. The University has won the Queen's Award for Enterprise in both 2006 (International Trade) and 2007 (Innovation — School of Pharmacy), and was named ‘Entrepreneurial University of the Year’ at the Times Higher Education Awards 2008.
Nottingham was designated as a Science City in 2005 in recognition of its rich scientific heritage, industrial base and role as a leading research centre. Nottingham has since embarked on a wide range of business, property, knowledge transfer and educational initiatives (www.science-city.co.uk) in order to build on its growing reputation as an international centre of scientific excellence. The University of Nottingham is a partner in Nottingham: the Science City.
The Princess Royal Trust for Carers has a UK-wide network of 144 independently managed Carers’ Centres supporting 250,000 carers and 13,000 young carers. Our Young Carers services provide advice, mentoring, support with education, clubs and holidays to young carers. Our whole-family approach aims to address the underlying reasons why some young people take on caring responsibilities inappropriate for their age.
The Princess Royal Trust for Carers interactive web site for young carers offers information, email support and chat sessions with experts: www.youngcarers.net