Professionals may need to open up a conversation with a parent of a young carer about their child’s caring responsibilities and how they might be impacting them. For some families, this will be a relatively straightforward conversation and some may start the conversation themselves. However, for others, it may be more difficult, for a variety of reasons.
It is important that professionals work in partnership with parents and carers to explore what might be challenging a child’s wellbeing, to help them to find solutions and identify the best possible support that will help their child to thrive.
There could be many different feelings linked to acknowledging that your child is a young carer. It may evoke guilt, sadness, worry or frustration. These feelings could be connected to a vast array of possible reasons, frustration could be due to the sudden onset of a health condition or significant changes to family life, sadness could be linked to a loss of independence and self- sufficiency, guilt could be due to not feeling unable to fulfil parental responsibilities, or worry that a child’s caring responsibilities may be hindering their development.
Professionals who are approachable and who build positive relationships with families that are built on trust and kindness and who make it clear that children’s wellbeing is at the heart of their work will enable families to open up about and talk about their situations.
If you need to start a conversation with a parent/ carer, this should be sensitively approached. You should make sure that you offer a good amount of time, as well as a confidential space. Professionals should not make assumptions about family life and they should be ready to listen and help the family to work out what they might need.
It can be helpful for parents/ carers to remember that the need for care is indiscriminate and can happen to anyone for all kinds of reasons. It can also be helpful for a family to understand more about the wider picture for young carers. It is estimated that there are as many as 800,000 young carers in the UK. You can help them to realise that they are not alone.
Helping families to understand what we mean by care can support the conversation. Care looks different in different families. Caring can involve practical responsibilities around the home, as well as help with personal care, help with medications, financial responsibilities and emotional care and support. A certain level of help is often taken on by most children, but young carers are those who are taking on more than a ‘typical child’. Young carers are relied upon because the person could not manage without their support.
It is important to help a parent/ carer to realise that the reason for the conversation is not to criticise their abilities as a parent, but to identify any support that they or their child might need. Staying focused on positive solutions will encourage working together to get the best for their child.
It may be important to talk to a parent/ carer about the impact that the child’s caring role is having upon them. If you have noticed that the child is struggling to concentrate at school, or they are tired, often worried, or in any physical pain, it is important that you raise this with the parent. Again, this may evoke some difficult emotions, but these are issues that could impact their child’s whole life and are therefore important to address as early as possible.
Young carers are entitled to an assessment of need. If you have identified a young carer, you should offer them an assessment. Please see….. page for further information about how to take the young person and their family through this process.
On this page, you will find useful resources that you can use to help you to talk about care with a young carer and their family.
MACCA and PANOC (tools that can help a professional to understand the caring responsibilities that the young person has and the way that the caring role makes them feel)
Children’s society (a range of resources for professionals to support them in their work with young carers)
Carers’ Trust (for information about young carers)
North Tyneside Carers’ Centre fact sheet (info about caring during COVID 19)