What is a young carer and is my child one? 

Some children may have extra care responsibilities at home, supporting a family member with physical or emotional needs. This can sometimes be because of a sudden illness or accident. 

Taking on the role of carer can affect a child’s everyday life. A young person in this situation needs extra support and understanding from the adults around them. 

You or the child may not realise that they are a young carer. 

Who can be a young carer

Your child may be a young carer if they: 

  • Are under 18. 
  • Help to look after a sibling, parent, relative or friend who may have a disability, illness, mental health condition or drug or alcohol problem.   

If the child is between 18 and 25, they are a young adult carer.

Signs that your child may be a young carer 

It’s not always obvious that a child is a young carer. They may not appear to be caring directly for the family member or friend in need. Instead, they might take on extra chores, or provide support and practical help to other family members. 

Young carers take up support roles such as:  

  • Cooking for the family. 
  • Cleaning the house. 
  • Doing the laundry and other household chores. 
  • Getting someone dressed in the morning or ready for bed. 
  • Feeding family members. 
  • Looking after siblings – for example, by taking them to school, helping with homework or playing with them. 
  • Collecting and giving medications. 
  • Managing family finances. 
  • Making phone calls to GPs and other professionals.
  • Filling out forms and applications. 
  • Providing a listening ear.  
  • Helping to keep everyone safe.  

      A young carer may not do all these activities, and a child doing some of these things will not always be a young carer. Many children will take on chores as an everyday part of family life, which can support learning and independence, but working beyond this may mean a child is a young carer. 

      How being a young carer can affect your child

      Being a young carer may lead a child or young person to: 

      • Have less time for school and homework. 
      • Struggle to concentrate in school. 
      • Spend less time meeting friends and joining in with social activities. 
      • Feel unable to do things their peers are doing, such as going on family holidays or having friends round.  
      • Feel they are different or that they’re missing out.  
      • Be bullied for being different or not joining in. 
      • Worry about their home life or someone at home. 
      • Be alert for danger and find it difficult to relax. 
      • Wonder whether they’ll be able to start work or continue their education. 
      • Feel tired and worn out. 
      • Feel low, anxious and alone. 

          A child or young person may also develop new skills from a caring role. This can include more empathy for others, better communication, and learning how to advocate on behalf of someone with care needs. 

          Assessment for young carers

          You or your child can request an assessment by a social worker from your local council. This will look at what support a child or young person and their family needs. Children and young people can also all get help with: 

          • Activities and breaks to allow them time to enjoy themselves. 
          • Practical advice and emotional support, including counselling. 
          • Learning new skills such as first aid, fire safety, life skills and wellbeing awareness. 
          • Financial planning.  
          • Emergency planning. 
          • Applying for benefits. 

            The assessment considers the child’s wishes and if it’s appropriate for the child to be a carer. Find your local social care team on your local council website.  

            Get more support

            If you think your child or another child is a young carer, try to make sure they have support in their day-to-day life. It may be helpful to:  

            • Share the Sidekick service with your child – a confidential and anonymous text message service for young carers aged 13 to 18. 
            • Check if their school has a young carers’ lead or young carers’ group – this will give them a chance to meet others in the same position, do activities, and get help with their learning.  
            • Contact a local young carers’ service – if your local council runs one, this can include activities and breaks, drop-in sessions, advice and help finding extra support.  
            • Make your child aware of their rights as a young carer (NHS).  
            • Find local support for carers and information on the Carers Trust website.  
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              This advice was written by our experienced Parent Talk coaches. Parent Talk is a free online service for parents and carers, provided by the charity Action for Children. For more advice, message our parenting coaches with our online chat.

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