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Volunteering at Scouts is changing to help us reach more young people

Volunteering is changing to help us reach more young people

Volunteering is changing at Scouts. Read more

Discover what this means

Young Carers

Young carers are young people who often take on practical and/or emotional caring responsibilities that would normally be expected of an adult.

Who are young carers?

Young carers are young people who often take on practical and/or emotional caring responsibilities that would normally be expected of an adult.

According to the Children's Society:

  • There are 800,000 young carers aged 5 to 17 care for an adult or family member in England.
  • 39% said nobody in their school was even aware of their caring responsibilities.
  • Young adult carers, aged 16 to 24, may be harder to engage, as they may be juggling demanding caring roles, alongside responsibilities and challenges, such as education or work.
  • 27% of young carers aged 11 to 15 miss school.

They may be caring for a friend, loved one or family member, who's physically or mentally unwell, disabled, or misuses drugs or alcohol.

They balance these caring roles with their school, college or work,  and their own personal lives.

What difficulties do young carers face?

Every caring situation is different. Young carers can be at risk of educational problems, family breakdown issues, and physical and mental ill health due to:

  • Isolation and bullying, which may arise from the restrictions on their social life and simply ‘being different’.
  • Stress, anxiety and worrying about the person they care for and juggling responsibilities.
  • Undertaking physical caring roles.
  • Disturbed sleep in order to care during the night.
  • Chaotic home lives and learnt behaviour when parents or carers have mental health and/or substance misuse problems.
  • Bereavement.
  • Lack of exercise and unhealthy diets, as many are responsible for the household meals and have little opportunity for sporting activities.

While they may find their role as a young carer demanding, young carers rarely say that they want to give up caring altogether. However, they do want to have breaks and to take part in the activities, such as Scouts, that they see other young people enjoying.

Identifying young carers in your Scout Group

You may already know young people who are carers, but young carers often keep their relative’s health condition and their caring role a secret.

Many families are scared that their young person will be taken away if someone finds out about their caring role. Some young carers may not even realise that they are in fact carers.

‘I didn’t want my childhood to change because of my caring role.’

Young carer

Young carers are often bullied and will sometimes drop out of Scouts when they start to take on a caring role. They may also attend less frequently without telling anyone the reason why. Other young carers will not even attempt to join.

All young people will react individually to their situation and as such, some young carers may be quiet and withdrawn. Others may become angry and resentful of their caring roles and this may come out in inappropriate behaviour.

Young carers often seem very mature to adults, but you might notice them struggling socially with their peers or being bullied.

Helping young carers

Firstly, as with any young person, if you're concerned about their welfare, refer to the usual Yellow Card procedures.

Young carers often say that they would like more support for the person they care for. Supporting a young person and who they live with or care for to engage other agencies who'll be able to support them can be helpful. This may be a young carers service, social services, the young person’s school, a GP or another voluntary agency.

Sometimes just knowing that someone understands their situation can make the difference between a young carer benefiting from your activities and a young carer not feeling able to take part.

Make sure that they're clear about what information you can keep private and who you might need to share information with in order to help them.

Practical tips for supporting young carers

  • Make links with your local young carers service. By working with them and being a familiar face, young carers they are in touch with may feel able to get involved in your Scout Group. They may be able to offer you and other volunteers training on how to best support young carers. They should also be able to help a family access further support. Some may need this in order for a young carer to take part in activities or nights away experiences.
  • Always approach young people privately when asking them how things are going whilst taking into account the need to follow the Yellow Card
  • Look out for young people who start to drop out for no obvious reason and speak with the young person and the family, especially if you are aware of disability, illness, or alcohol or substance misuse problems in their home.
  • Ask questions at promotional events and in your joining resources or materials, such as ‘Might you find it difficult to join because of caring responsibilities?’
  • Make sure that events that involve parents and carers are accessible to disabled parents and carers, ideally offering transport to those that need it.
  • Allow young carers access to their phone when on activities. This means can check that their relative is OK if they're worried, rather than feeling they have to stay home to keep an eye on them.
  • Make sure you create a positive environment about disability. For example, a young carer with a disabled sibling is likely to be upset by other young people using inappropriate terms when describing people with disabilities.
  • If a good relationship has been built up with parents and carers, signposting them into additional support can be useful.

Carers Trust

Carers Trust is the largest provider of comprehensive support services, reaching more than 443,000 carers.

This includes more than 34,000 young carers.

They offer support through a unique network of 142 independently managed carers’ centres, 76 schemes, 112 young carers’ services and interactive websites.

Visit the website