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Being a young carer

Young carers' rights

Everybody has certain rights and responsibilities. If caring is affecting your health, your feelings or your school work, you should ask for help from your doctor or your local authority. You can find the local authority's details by typing your postcode into the "Services near you" box (right).

The Young Carers Charter was drawn up by the Carers Trust and sets out the rights young carers feel they're entitled to.

As a young carer, think about what might help you to ensure you enjoy these rights. Read the charter below and ask yourself: how can I make this a reality?

The Charter

"We are children and young people who are also carers. We want people to recognise this. We believe we should have the same rights as other children and young people, including the rights:

  • to be children and young people as well as carers,
  • to schools and colleges that give us the help we need to get an education,
  • to fun, friends and time off from caring,
  • to a well-supported family life,
  • to practical help and support,
  • to a safe environment and protection from harm, including any harm that our caring roles could cause us,
  • to services that value our different backgrounds, culture, religion, race and sexuality,
  • to be listened to,
  • to an assessment of what we need as individuals,
  • to be involved when people make decisions that affect our lives,
  • to a wide range of information that would help us,
  • to someone who will help us have a voice (advocacy),
  • to understand how things work and how to complain if we want to,
  • to choose how much caring we do, and
  • to become independent adults."

Click on the links below to find out more about your rights and choices around your caring role.

Your choices about caring

Caring for someone when you are a young person can be difficult. Some people start caring at a very young age and don't really realise that they've become carers. Other young people become carers overnight.

If someone in your family needs to be looked after, it can be hard to say no. This may make you resent the person you're looking after. You may not have as much time to see your friends as you did before.

Young carers shouldn't do the same amount of caring as adult carers, and they shouldn't have to provide regular and substantial care to someone.

Do I have to be a carer?

It's your decision whether you become a carer, and it's up to you how much and what type of care you're willing or able to give. You may feel a lot of pressure to take on a caring role, but it's important to think about what's best for you and the person who needs care.

You may feel guilty about handing caring responsibility over to someone else, but you need to decide whether you're the right person to give the level of care necessary. All disabled adults are entitled to support so they don't have to rely on their children to care for them.

Local authority social services are responsible for providing the correct level of support and care to the adult you look after. It's important for social services to ensure the whole family feels supported and comfortable with your role.

Do I have to look after my brother or sister?

If you have a sick or disabled brother or sister, you may be a "sibling carer". Usually, sibling carers are not the main carers, but they help their parents or grandparents. But you may find yourself looking after a parent and a brother or sister. Sibling carers can face huge responsibilities, particularly if they're helping to care for more than one person.

You don't have to be a sibling carer if you don't want to be. You can speak to your parents or grandparents about how you feel.

Your local authority can help you if you look after a parent and a brother or sister.

Choosing how long to care for

You may want to look after a relative but need more time to do school work or see friends. Everyone needs time to themselves. It's your legal right and nobody will think badly of you for asking for this time.

You can be assessed for help from your local authority if you're under 16 and the person you're caring for has already had an assessment. If you're over 16 and a carer, you can ask for a carer's assessment at any time.

Assessments are not tests. They're a chance for you to talk to social services to see if they can help you. When the local authority looks at the results of the assessment, it may decide that you need extra help to care for the person you're looking after.

It may also be able to provide you with aids or adaptations to your home to make things easier for you.

If you're a young carer and you feel the pressure is getting too much, contact ChildLine on 0800 1111 or Samaritans on 08457 90 90 90 for advice and information.

Breaks from caring

It's important to get the support you need so that you have time to do the things you want to do and be with your friends. If possible, put aside some time each day to do something you enjoy. Your local young carers project or carers centre may be able to help. You can find your local carers centre on the Carers Trust website.

Young carers projects

Find out if there are any young carers projects in your area by checking the Children's Society Service Finder. Having a break from home and meeting other young carers can help you to relax. You'll be able to meet other people in a similar position to you and have fun at the same time.

Many young carers projects offer:

  • Evening clubs, weekends away, days out and even holidays.
  • Someone who will listen when you need it and who will understand your thoughts and feelings.
  • Information and advice for the whole family. If the person you look after can get more help or benefits, that may mean more free time for you.
  • Choices – they can help you make your own choices, but they cannot make them for you.

Local carers' centres

You may also like to go to your local carers centre. Each centre is different, but many of them provide clubs for young carers or one-to-one sessions. You can find your nearest carers' centre on the directory of local carers' services.

If you're having trouble coping with caring, talking to someone may help you come up with solutions to your problems. If the centre has a young carers group, you may feel more comfortable talking to someone in a similar situation to you. Sometimes it just helps to know that you're not alone.

Money

Having an illness or disability can really affect how much money your family has. The person who is ill may have to give up work or work much less, and as a young carer you may find there's not much money left for family outings or school trips. You may also find yourself managing your family's money, paying the bills and doing the shopping. This might feel stressful.

If someone in your family has an illness or disability, they can get money to help them. It can be hard to find out about what you might get, or your parents might not want to rely on benefits. But if you're concerned about money, speak to your parents about it.

Talk to someone at your local young carers project. They should be able to help you get the money that you or your family need. You could also talk confidentially to the Citizens Advice Bureau for free.

There are a number of ways you can get money to help, either with your caring role or your education.

Carer's Allowance

Carer's Allowance is available to anyone over 16 who cares for someone for at least 35 hours a week. Time spent travelling or helping someone get about can count towards the 35 hours. To qualify for Carer's Allowance, the person you're looking after must already be getting either Disability Living Allowance (DLA) at the highest or middle rate, or Attendance Allowance.

Young carers at school or college for more than 21 hours a week cannot get Carer's Allowance. You cannot claim if you're earning more than £95 a week.

Carer premium

Some carers can get the carer premium. This is extra money included in Income Support, income-related Employment and Support Allowance, income-based Jobseeker's Allowance, Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit.

See the section on top-up benefits for more information.

Work

You may choose to look for paid work. If you've left school, you could work full-time. If you're still studying, you may be able to work part-time to earn some money.

Think carefully about how much time you can commit to working. If you need to be at home at a certain time, you'll probably need to find a job with fixed hours. If you're still at school, a part-time job at weekends might be better.

Working rules

For their own health and safety, young people are only allowed to work for a limited amount of time each week. Fifteen or 16-year-olds can work up to two hours a day on weekdays, one hour before school and one hour after. In term time they can work up to eight hours on a Saturday and two on a Sunday.

If you're over 16, you can work up to eight hours a day, but no more than 40 hours a week. You're entitled to a break of at least 30 minutes if you work for more than four-and-a-half hours at a time.

Make sure you're paid properly. There is a national minimum wage and it's illegal for someone to pay you less than this. For 16 and 17-year-olds, the minimum wage is £3.53 an hour. For 18 to 21-year-olds, it's £4.77 an hour, and if you're over 21, the minimum wage is £5.73 an hour.

Finding a job may not be as hard as you think. Ask your friends and relatives and let them know you're looking for work. Shops usually need more staff in the run-up to Christmas and often start advertising jobs from September. Other employers, such as cafés or farms, may need extra help in summer. The vacancies section in your local newspaper should have details of suitable jobs.

If you don't have much experience, consider volunteering. Volunteering (unpaid working) is a useful way of getting experience when you're starting out. Although it's not paid, volunteering shows employers you have real commitment, so it will look good when you apply for jobs. If you're a good volunteer, there may be the chance for paid work in the future.

Note down any voluntary experience you do and ask for references from employers. Keeping a record of these, along with any qualifications, will help you prove your worth to potential future employers. Many will expect you to give them a CV (curriculum vitae), which is a list of your contact details, achievements, qualifications, skills, experience and references.

Saving money

As well as getting money from benefits or working, think about ways you could save money. Try shopping in cheaper shops, using vouchers, looking for two-for-one deals or going to places that are free, such as parks and many museums. For more information, see Budgeting tips for carers.

Home improvement

You may be able to get your home adapted so it's safer or more accessible for the person you're looking after. This may depend on what illness or disability they have. An occupational therapist may be able to help you find out more.

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Page last reviewed: 19/08/2013

Next review due: 19/08/2015

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