Recognising when a child is a young carer isn’t always straightforward. There is still a lot of confusion even among teachers and healthcare professionals. Family Support Worker, Catherine Boylan, busts a few myths and explains how we identify and support young carers.

The Young Carers girls' group letting off steam together.

According to the BBC there are thought to be over 800,000 young carers in the UK. A young carer is someone under 18, who regularly helps to look after a person in their family who has any type of physical or mental illness or disability or misuses substances such as alcohol or drugs. Caring can include providing emotional or physical support such as reassurance, encouragement, cooking, cleaning or helping to care for a sibling.

Who can refer to us?

We accept referrals from anyone: professionals, family, friends or young carers themselves. If the young carer is under the age of 18, we will need permission from a parent or guardian in order to work with them.

What happens next?

When we receive a referral about a young person, s/he will be allocated a Family Support Worker who will contact the referrer/family to arrange an assessment visit to ensure we are the right service for the young person. Once the paperwork is complete, we will create an action plan for the young carer which may include one or more of the types of support we offer.

How do we support young carers?

In Merton we support unpaid carers from the age of five who live in or support someone living in the Borough. We offer one-to-one or peer support, workshops and respite activities; we also signpost and refer to other agencies, liaise with schools and other professionals and research other opportunities that may be beneficial for the family. Young Carers are allocated a Family Support Worker who will actively work with them, initially for 3-6 months.

Myth buster - the facts

A child or young person has to be physically caring for someone for example by cooking or cleaning to get support from Young Carers Support Merton. 

FALSE - A young carer can also be someone who is emotionally or socially impacted by their caring role, they do not need to be carrying out physical care.  

I have to tell my school I am a young carer. 

FALSE- Whilst we would always encourage you (or someone else) to inform your school of your caring role you don’t have to, but it may be helpful if your school does know.

My parents know I’m receiving support from Young Carers Support Merton. 

TRUE - If you are under 18, we need parental/guardian consent for you to receive support from us, however in exceptional circumstances this may not be needed or we can support you to access alternative services that may be more suitable.

If you are still unsure if you or someone  you know is, a young carer you can use our checklist to find out

We regularly run training workshops for health, education and social care professionals to learn how to identify adult and young Carers in the community and how to access the support  available to them.