Young Adult Carers – responsibilities, but what about rights?

25 January 2017

For most young people the acquisition of rights and responsibilities goes hand in hand. As they get older, their responsibilities gradually increase, but so do their rights. This process is an important part of growing up – it contributes to young people becoming independent, confident and responsible adults. 

But unfortunately, this isn’t the case for all young people. Today is Young Carers Awareness Day – it’s an opportunity to recognise the positive contribution that young and young adult carers make to their families and society, but also to raise awareness of the challenges they face and the high personal costs that being a carer often brings.

Can you imagine being responsible for administering your dad’s essential medication at the age of 16?  Being responsible for getting your two younger sisters to school, checking they’ve done their homework and making their lunch? Being responsible for completing benefit forms and worrying about whether you’ll have enough money to cover all the bills this week? It’s a lot to face – particularly when your friends and peers are concentrating on college, getting a job, going out with friends – all the things that most young people take for granted. 

Whilst there are many benefits to being a carer – close relationships, maturity, the development of skills – caring responsibilities often have a negative impact on a young person. Young adult carers typically miss out on chunks of schooling, often feel isolated and under pressure, live on the edges of poverty, on average achieve 9 lower GCSE grades than their peers and are far more likely to be NEET (not in education, employment or training) compared to other young people. At Learning and Work Institute we believe that young adult carers have the right to fair access to learning and employment. Watch this short film to hear a young adult carer talking about how her rights could be improved:

  • The right to claim the 16-19 Bursary of £1200 per year, which is currently afforded to other groups of young people, but not young adult carers, would make a huge difference in enabling many to stay in learning.
  • The right to do an apprenticeship on a part-time or flexible basis would give young adult carers good opportunities to take the first step to building a career.
  • The right to study and claim Carers Allowance would give young adult carers a real choice about what they do – rather than forcing them to make a decision that often pushes them away from learning.

Most young adult carers are proud of their caring responsibilities and do not want to give them up. What they do want, however, is a greater balance between responsibilities and rights. They want the right to a life of their own; to be able to maintain a good sense of wellbeing and positive mental health; to be able to aspire, learn and follow their career goals. We hope the forthcoming Carers Strategy will put tangible measures in place to deliver this.