15.18 Safeguarding young carers
Last reviewed - September 2022
Date of next review - September 2025
Care and support statutory guidance - Currently under review, revisions anticipated 2023.
A Young carer as defined by the Children and Families Act 2014 is a young person under the age of eighteen who has a caring responsibility for ‘another person’ on a regular basis. The concept of care includes personal, practical or emotional support and includes someone with mental health or substance misuse problems. 'Another person' means anyone within the same family, either adult or child who have an illness or disability and includes both older and younger siblings with physical and/or emotional health needs. On rare occasions, this caring responsibility may be for a friend.
Action for Children estimates that young carers spend on average 25 hours per week caring for loved ones and that many are effectively ‘on call’ at night. It is not surprising that young carers often struggle to fit in other activities like schoolwork, playing sport or meeting up with friends.
The Key Principle is that:
‘Children should not undertake inappropriate or excessive caring roles that may have an impact on their development. A young carer becomes vulnerable when their caring role risks impacting upon their emotional or physical well-being and their prospects in education and life.’ (Care and Support Statutory Guidance. Issued under the Care Act. DH 2014. Paragraph 2.50).
The following list identifies some roles which may be considered inappropriate or excessive duties depending on the individual family situation and should be considered as part of the child and family assessment:
Intimate personal care;
This definition acknowledges that more children than previously identified through legislation now qualify as young carers and are entitled to a needs assessment.
This definition excludes children providing care as part of contracted work or as voluntary work.
Recognition and Response
A child may come to the notice of agencies as caring responsibilities can significantly affect a child's health and development. A child may present with one or more of the following concerns:
It is important that special consideration is given to specific groups to ensure inclusive practice, especially when undertaking an assessment of needs-for example:
The Regulations that currently relate to young carers are contained within the Young Carers (Needs Assessments) Regulations 2015 and came into force on 1st April 2015.
In line with these regulations the local authority must carry out a young carer’s needs assessment in a manner, which is appropriate and proportionate to the needs and circumstances of the young carer to whom it relates. This is usually carried out as part of a Family Assessment (also referred to a Child and Family Assessment or Strengthening Families Assessment) taking account of the needs and context of the whole family.
Each Local Authority is expected to take 'reasonable steps' to identify which children in their area are young carers. Once children are identified the Local Authority must carry out an assessment and ensure that services are provided to meet the identified need. The needs assessment should take into account the wider picture by considering fluctuating needs and the impact on the whole family.
Whoever carries out the assessment must:
a. Be appropriately trained to have the skills and knowledge to be able to identify a young carer
b. Be an appropriate person to carry out the assessment having regard to the young carer’s circumstances, in particular the young carer’s age, sex and understanding
c. Have a clear process for identifying and recording Young Carers
d. If English is not their first language then it is important to consider using an interpreter rather than a family member or friend.
In carrying out the assessment, the local authority must, in particular, have regard to:
a. The young carer’s age, understanding and family circumstances
b. The wishes, feelings and preferences of the young carer
c. Any differences of opinion between the young carer, the young carer’s parents and the person cared for, with respect to the care which the young carer provides (or intends to provide)
d. The outcomes the young carer seeks from the assessment.
An assessment can be refused if:
If there are circumstances identified in which a young carer is suffering, or is likely to be suffering, significant harm through emotional abuse and / or neglect then a referral must be made following the appropriate local area safeguarding procedure immediately.
Unless there is reason to believe that it would put the child at risk of harm, young carers should be informed if there is a need to make a referral, in order that their trust in a professional is maintained.
Where a young carer or parent does not give consent, but it is still considered necessary to initiate a child safeguarding referral, both the child and parent should be kept informed of all decisions made and offered support throughout.