Background An estimated one in five children are young carers1: they are assisting in the care of a relative/friend ‘who is ill, disabled or misuses drugs or alcohol’2. Children care for a whole variety of reasons3. Despite their integral role within society, young carers remain a largely ‘hidden’ population4.
The impact of young caring has been extensively documented; nevertheless, initiatives specific to young carer identification within healthcare have yet to be developed and implemented. This project worked in collaboration with Family Action as part of a quality improvement project to enhance the identification and experiences of local young carers.
Aims This project sought to ascertain and address barriers faced by young carers accessing healthcare in North London from the perspectives of both young carers and healthcare professionals.
Methods We conducted semi-structured interviews with ten paediatric and eight adult healthcare professionals and two young carers from a Family Action Carers Group to explore their perceptions of young carers’ rights and support. Ten young carers participated in an educational workshop, focused on their rights within the National Health Service, and the co-development of young carer identification cards.
Results A qualitative approach uncovered six predominant themes: identification, support, awareness, family dynamic, young carers’ voice and impact. Identification emerged to be the primary obstacle hindering young carers from accessing appropriate support, such as information and training.
Conclusion A lack of awareness and recognition of young carers by healthcare professionals results in the poor healthcare experiences of these carers. We hope that with increased knowledge of young carer rights and enhanced recognition of their role, young carers will be empowered to more confidently assert their rights within healthcare.
Blackpool Carers. (2018). Latest research from Nottingham University and BBC shows that 1 in 5 children aged 11 to 16 have a caring role. Accessed [26/09/18]. Available at: https://www.blackpoolcarers.org/latest-research-from-nottingham-university-and-bbc-shows-that-1-in-5-children-aged-11-to-16-have-a-caring-role-blackpool-young-carers-family-featured-on-bbc/.
Carers Trust UK. (2015). About Young Carers. Carers.org. Accessed [05/12/2017]. Available at: https://carers.org/about-us/about-young-carers
Aldridge, J. and Becker, S. (2003). Children Caring for Parents with Mental Illness: Perspectives of Young Carers, Parents and Professionals. The Policy Press: Bristol.
Warren, J. (2005). ‘Carers’. Research Matters, 19, 5–10.
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