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Understanding what it means to be a young carer

If you think you might be a young carer, or if you want some more information about what being a young carer means, the information below may help you to understand your situation more. Remember though, that young carers’ may have lots in common with one another, but everyone’s caring situation is different.

What is a young carer?

Young carers are people under 18 who provide or intend to provide care for another person. The reality of being a young carer means different things to different young people. Some people start giving care at a very young age and they don’t realise they are a young carer. Some people can suddenly become a young carer overnight.

Your situation will be unique to you. But, all young carers have in common that they are looking after someone else. The reason is normally because the person has mental or physical health issues, substance misuse issues or a disability. The person you are caring for will normally be someone in your family. The care that you are providing will be more than the typical help around the house that young people are expected to give within families.

Caring can be different in different families. You may be offering practical care including tasks like cooking, washing and cleaning. You may be helping with shopping. You may be interpreting on behalf of the person you care for, or signing or using a different communication system. You may be collecting medication or helping the person you care for to remember to take it. You may be looking after your brothers or sisters or you may be helping someone with personal care, like helping them to wash and dress.

Sometimes people don’t realise that providing emotional support for someone can also make you a young carer. You may be supporting someone when they feel low and helping them to feel positive, keeping them company, talking to them and keeping them occupied. You may be worrying about someone a lot when you are not with them.

What does being a young carer feel like?

Caring can make people feel a variety of different things. There is not a ‘normal’ response to being a young carer. Everyone feels different. You might feel positive about caring and proud of yourself because you are doing something good and helpful. Caring might make you feel closer to your family. You may also feel that you are learning useful things by being a young carer. But caring can be hard and you may feel stressed or lonely. You may find it difficult to cope and feel overwhelmed with the amount of things that need to be done. You may feel sad about your family situation, or sad because you feel like you are missing out on things that you really want to experience. You could feel a combination of positive and negative feelings and it may make you feel a bit mixed up.

If caring is causing problems

It is really important that you don’t take on so much care for someone else that your own life is negatively impacted. If caring is making you feel stressed, worried, anxious, tired or physically unwell or if it is making school or seeing friends difficult for you, or making decisions about your future education or employment, you should talk to a professional adult– like a teacher, a teaching assistant, a doctor, a social worker (if you have one) or a school nurse. They have a responsibility to help you to get the support that you need to improve your situation. You can start the conversation by saying “I am a young carer and I need some help”. Please do not suffer in silence.

If you don’t feel like you have anyone in your life that you can talk to about it, you can call North Tyneside Carers’ Centre who have a team of experienced and specialist staff who you can talk to.

Contact The Young Carers’ Service

You are not alone

There are lots of other young people who are young carers. There will be other young carers in your class at school. A BBC News report in 2018 suggested that there are as many as 800,000 in the UK. You are not alone. And there is support available for you. We hope this website helps you to understand a bit more about being a young carer, the support that you are entitled to and some of the support options that are available to you.


Talking to friends

You may feel nervous about sharing with your friends that you are a young carer for many different reasons. You may feel worried that people won’t understand or embarrassed that your life is different to theirs. The fact is though that we are all very different and good friends will listen and give you space and time to talk.

Talking to friends about your situation at home and having someone who understands might help you. Ask your close friends if they can give you some time and tell them what is going on at home. Tell them about the things that you find hard and tell them about the things that you are proud of.

If you think that it would make your life better if lots of the young people that you know had a better understanding of what it means to be a young carer, you could talk to someone in your school about arranging a talk or an assembly. You might want to give the talk yourself, or you might want someone to help you to do it. It could even help other young people to talk about their situation.

If you ever feel that you are being bullied about your home situation, or because you are a young carer, you must speak to someone in your school so that they can help you.

If you need extra support around this, you can call North Tyneside Carers’ Centre who have a team of experienced and specialist staff who you can talk to.

Or you can contact ChildLine: ChildLine is the UK’s free, confidential helpline for children and young people. They offer advice and support, by phone and online, 24 hours a day. Whenever and wherever you need them, they’ll be there. Call 0800 1111. They have a designated page for bullying issues that includes a new video about building up your confidence after bullying.

Young Carers at North Tyneside Carers’ Centre came together to record songs about their experience of caring as well as a podcast interviewing professionals about the needs of young carers.  You can listen to them by clicking the button below. Perhaps some of the things that they sing and talk about feel relevant to you as well