An estimated 175,000 children are ‘young carers’ – that is, they look after disabled and ill parents or other family members, sometimes for 20+ hours per week. It’s hard to put an exact figure on it because fear of being taken into care keeps most children quiet, and the resources that would be needed to replace children’s responsibilities with properly funded social care gives local councils and government a powerful incentive not to look too closely.
Now, even the funding that is available for young carers’ projects is under threat:
The carers grant and children’s fund are central government pots of money that fund a range of projects for carers and disadvantaged children, and include schemes backing young carers. The carers grant is worth £185m in England this financial year, while the children’s fund will provide £130-£149m. Both are due to be wound up next March. The children’s fund will go directly into councils’ children budgets, but the future of the carers grant will not be clarified until the comprehensive spending review in October. Charities fear all the money will simply be absorbed into local government funding, with no guarantee that help for young carers will be protected.
Al Aynsley-Green, the children’s commissioner warns that child carers barely feature in the plans published by councils covering priorities for young people.
In the Times today, Minette Marin has plenty to say on the subject, and mentions the recent suicide of a child nursing her mother:
In October a girl of 13 died after taking an overdose of morphine pills meant for her terminally sick mother, whom she had looked after since she was nine. The coroner at the inquest wrote to Beverley Hughes, the children’s minister, who later claimed that the government had such children’s needs “in the frame”. Some frame.
If just a fraction of public outrage about ‘hoodies’, for instance, was redirected towards forcing councils to support young carers, you can bet the issue would move up the agenda pretty fast. I don’t know how many ‘hoodies’ each local authority contains, but it’s a fair bet that there are at least 1,000 children looking after parents or relatives.
Go on, email your local children’s services department and ask them what they are doing about supporting and identifying young carers in your area, how they will ensure that existing projects survive, what the budget will be and whether they will ring-fence it.
You can find the address here.