New Carers Trust survey reveals devastating double whammy of cost-of-living crisis and increasing intensity of caring responsibilities on children and young adults
“I’d love to have kid problems. Instead, I’m saving up to try and pay our rent and to see if I can squeeze in some food at the end of it.”
· 56% of respondents to Carers Trust survey say the cost-of-living crisis is always or usually hitting them and their family
· 32% say they always or usually face additional costs because they are a carer
· 56% say the time they spend caring has increased in the past year
· 47% are now caring for more people than they used to
A new Carers Trust survey released today (9th March) shows the devastating double whammy of the cost-of-living crisis and the increasing intensity of caring responsibilities shouldered by children and young people providing unpaid care to family members.
The report, released a week ahead of the UK’s Young Carers Action Day (15 March), an annual event led and organised by national charity Carers Trust, aims to raise awareness of the devastating impact on young people of fulfilling their caring role without sufficient support from the state. The UK charity is also asking politicians to sign up to a five-point pledge committing them to supporting children and young people in a caring role. Additionally, Carers Trust alongside young carers will be going to Downing Street to hand in an open letter for the Prime Minister on Young Carers Action Day calling for him to do more to help.
The UK-wide survey of 1,109 young carers (aged under 18) and young adult carers (aged 18-25) showed alarming findings, with many young people contributing to or managing the family finances. The survey found that 32% said they always or usually face additional costs because they are a carer. 57% said that they always or usually worry about the cost of living and things becoming more expensive, and 56% said the cost-of-living crisis is always or usually affecting them and their family.
One young adult told the survey: “I’d love to have kid problems. Instead, I’m saving up to try and pay our rent and to see if I can squeeze in some food at the end of it.”
The survey also found a significant intensification of their caring role. More than half (51%) of those surveyed report caring for between 20 and 49 hours, while also balancing their studies, work and lives outside of caring. However, as many stated in the survey, this does not reflect the extra time they spend worrying about the needs of the person they care for and the true figure may be much higher.
In total, 56% said the time they spend caring has increased in the last year and 47% said they now care for more people than they used to. This is in line with latest census data which showed the proportion of unpaid carers providing 20 hours’ or more care a week has markedly increased.
One young adult told the survey: “Caring never stops. Especially when it’s time to sleep, your brain constantly worries about how tomorrow will be, hospital appointments, money etc. It’s in overdrive.”
Time spent caring hits education and wellbeing
A higher proportion of those caring for more hours per week reported problems with money, not having time to socialise, feeling stressed and worried and not getting enough rest, sleep or time for themselves.
In terms of education, 40% said that they never or do not often get help in school, college or university to balance caring and education work, with a third of overall respondents saying they usually or always struggle with that balance. They also report a lack of support from schools, with 28% saying there is ‘not often’ or ‘never’ someone at their school, college or university who understands about them being a carer.
For those who work, 45% ‘always’ or ‘usually’ struggle to balance caring with paid work.
One young adult said: “There is a lot of pressure on me, to the detriment of my own health, wellbeing, success, happiness and future.”
The findings suggest these pressures are having a devastating effect on mental health. Many struggle with emotional wellbeing and feel stressed, overwhelmed or drained. The survey revealed that 44% ‘always’ or ‘usually’ feel stressed.
Illustrating the overwhelming nature of being a young carer, one said: “You don’t get to have bad days. If you have a bad day, the whole house can fall into disarray. It’s exhausting and traumatic.”
Young and young adult carers say the key things they need are support around: mental health, money and finances, education and a break from caring.
Among its recommendations, Carers Trust is calling for:
· The UK Government to publish a national strategy and action plan for unpaid carers in 2023.
· All schools, colleges and universities to appoint a Young Carers Lead with strategic responsibility and oversight for identifying and implementing appropriate support.
· Governments across the UK to introduce a fully resourced right to short breaks for unpaid carers with dedicated funding.
· Improved access to financial support for young carers and young adult carers, including increasing Carer’s Allowance and extending Carer’s Allowance eligibility to unpaid carers in full-time education.
Carers Trust’s CEO, Kirsty McHugh, said:
“These shocking survey results show young people caring for their loved ones are being hit by a perfect storm of increasing intensity in their caring responsibilities and the spiralling cost of living. It cannot be right that children and young adult carers are having to take on the burden of dealing with stretched household finances and caring for ever longer hours, to the detriment of their education and wellbeing.
“These young people and the local organisations that support them need radical action from the UK Government now. A national strategy for unpaid carers must finally be developed after years of delay, while an overhaul of Carer’s Allowance is long overdue. Young people also tell us they urgently need support with mental health and access to breaks. It’s high time we gave them the help they so sorely need.”
The full report on the survey findings is available here: “Being a young carer is not a choice; it’s just what we do.”