The number of children and young people being forced to provide unpaid care for loved ones is set to hit record figures over the next two years, UK home care provider Cera Care has warned.
With Carers Week starting today, the provider has highlighted census data that shows that the number of unpaid carers under the age of 16 will be in the region of 143,500 across England and Wales by 2021, up 21% from today’s figure.
Of these carers, Cera Care expects 18,250 (13%) to be aged between five and seven years old and 90,000 (63%) to be aged 10 to 14 years old.
As Government spending on welfare, measured against GDP, declined by 22.7% between 2011 to 2019, increasing pressure has been placed on families to find solutions to care needs from within, according to Cera Care.
Over 10,000 children currently in England and Wales provide 50 or more hours of unpaid care work per week, a time commitment in excess of many adults’ full-time jobs.
The pressure of taking on this role appears to impact girls slightly more often than their male peers, with females accounting for 53% of the child carers in England and Wales.
Young carers can often face the challenge of not fully understanding the condition afflicting their family member. This is especially the case where the sufferer’s condition varied over time because of treatment or the nature of the condition.
In such cases, research from the Department for Education has shown that it is much harder for households to establish routines and therefore both carers and sufferers feel they have less control over their lives.
Cera Care head of recruitment and training Sarah McEwan said: “When anyone is thrust into the role of primary carer for a family member, loved one or relative, it can put significant pressure on their lives. It impacts their ability to work, their own health and personal well-being. When that person is a child, this pressure is vastly increased.
“We’re seeing a growing number of children as young as five looking after one or both of their parents or caring for a brother or sister. They may be caring for a relative with a disability, illness, mental health condition or even a drug or alcohol problem. Time spent providing care at home impacts their ability to do well at school and to enjoy life.
“Many children also don’t realise that they are carers and just continue to do what is best for their families day in day out.”