Today, 30th January 2020, is Young Carers Awareness Day. It is an annual event, led by Carers Trust, which aims to celebrate Young Carers, and create greater societal awareness of their lived experiences.
Barnardo’s supports Young Carers across the UK through a range of services, and campaigns for their rights and needs. In this blog, I wanted to focus on the unique vulnerabilities experienced by BAME Young Carers, and the difficulties they often face when accessing support.
According to research conducted by the Children’s Society, young carers are 1.5 times as likely to be from BAME communities, and twice as likely to not speak English as a first language. However, just under 20% of the total number of young carers Barnardo’s supports across the country have been identified as being from non-white communities.
It is vitally important to raise awareness of the lived experience of all young carers and promote a concerted effort to reduce the burden of care they carry. In recent years, Barnardo’s has been at the forefront of efforts to encourage the Government to undertake specific action for the most marginalised young carers from Black, Asian and Ethnic Minority families.
Who are young carers?
According to section 96 of the Children and Families Act 2014, a young carer is defined as a ‘person under 18 who provides or intends to provide care to another person’. Young carers look after a relative who has a condition, such as a disability, illness, mental health condition, or a drug or alcohol problem. Most young carers look after one of their parents, or care for a sibling.
According to the 2011 census, there are around 195,000 young carers in the UK. However, whilst the numbers rely on families to self-declare, many are hesitant to do so as they fear further consequences. Research from the BBC and the University of Nottingham in 2010 put the number closer to 700,000. More recent reports show that one in five secondary school children may be a young carer.
For many young carers, their caring journey begins at a very young ag, and has an enormous impact on their everyday life and mental health. Caring for someone can be very isolating, worrying and stressful. As the Carers Trust noted in a 2016 report, young carers often cite not having access to information about the condition and needs of the person they care for as an added factor of worry and stress. This can negatively impact their experiences and outcomes in education, having a lasting effect on their prospects in life chances.
Caring Alone: shedding light on the experiences of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) Young Carers
In February 2019, Barnardo’s published a briefing, which looked into the experiences of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) young carers.
While previous reports had found that many young carers struggled to get the support they needed to live a normal childhood, Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) young carers are even less likely to receive support, both financially and practically, often as a result of the difficulty in accessing culturally appropriate information, and a lack of engagement with these communities. BAME young carers therefore continue to be even more isolated and hidden from services.
In the report, young carer practitioners cited language barriers and stigma as the two key reasons why Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic young carers and their families were less likely to access support than other young carers. Other issues such as a fear of social services and agency involvement in the family, as well as an acceptance that a child should care for older relatives within the family, were also seen as significant.
Barnardo’s work with BAME young carers
Barnardo’s Young Carer services are leading by example, aiming to ensure that all communities know what support is out there for them, and being mindful of cultural and religious issues. For example, Barnardo’s CareFree Leicester service holds Saturday support groups for young carers, because many children attend mosque during the week.
Services and outreach workers who recognise different cultural nuances, and are aware of the issues associated with language barriers, are vitally important to gaining the trust of families and children in different communities. Barnardo’s has highlighted the importance of working with cultural and religious leaders as well as Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic media, which can help to spread these positive messages within communities.
Stories from the field
Neha is a young carer whose mum and dad both have serious health problems. The family receive support from Barnardo’s CareFree service in Leicester. She said: “I’d not heard of being a young carer. We were just doing what we needed to do and that is what is expected for Indian families. When we went to Barnardo’s CareFree and I met my worker, it made a real difference. She spoke to the college for me and gave us all support, including getting me grants for driving lessons and a laptop.”
Ten-year-old Safa is supported by Barnardo’s young carers’ service in Bradford. Safa’s three siblings are all on the autistic spectrum. Safa helps care for her siblings – getting uniforms ready for school, helping prepare meals, cleaning up around the house. She is attentive to their needs providing invaluable support to them and emotional support to her mum.
Shila, Safa’s mother, said: “When my eldest son was diagnosed with autism there was denial from all my family members. No one wanted to accept he had a disability. I learnt very early on that I needed to embrace it and learn as much as I could about autism to make his life better. At first, I was scared to get in touch with social services. It’s the connotations you grow up with and that are often reinforced by the media – if social services get to know you, it will lead to trouble for your family. But I eventually came round to thinking that I had to do this for my children. So I self-referred and was later referred to the Barnardo’s young carers’ service too.”
Children and young people continue to lose their childhoods and jeopardise their futures to care for their family members and relatives. Barnardo’s young carers’ services provide invaluable support to many children and young people around the country, as well as to their families. However, more has to be done, both at the governmental and the societal levels, to ensure that young carers are not left alone to carry the burden of care, hidden or ignored. And that is what today is all about.
Learn more about it:
By Giorgia Bracelli, Regional Fundraising Executive at Barnardo’s