Of the country’s estimated 800,000 carers under 17, 10 per cent say the pressure of looking after loved ones meant they had to quit secondary school. A quarter said that their role stopped them going to university while a further 15 per cent said being a carer led to them dropping out of further or higher education. Sixty-seven per cent said the role made them feel tired in lessons, children’s charity Barnardo’s found, citing a 13-year-old given detention for failing to do homework – despite being up until 2am looking after her pneumonia-stricken mother.
The research showed 73 per cent of young carers took time off learning, while a third missed school most weeks to do duties such as washing, tidying the house, feeding or bathing a sibling or giving medicine to a sick parent.
The figures have been highlighted to mark a new three-year partnership between Barnardo’s and furniture empire IKEA.
To coincide with Carers Week, homecare provider Cera Care has estimated that 18,250 five to seven-year-olds will be forced to care for a relative in the next two years.
The census-based research also showed there are a record 150,000 unpaid under 16-year-old carers, including nearly 90,000 14-year-olds and over 9,000 aged between five and seven. Charities blame cuts in social care and the NHS.
Emma James, senior policy and research officer at Barnardo’s, said young lives were being ruined.
She said: “Our services see many young carers who continually struggle in schools, and find it hard to engage due to the pressures at home.
“Many also find it hard due to the fact there can be a lot of stigma attached to being a young carer and they may not want to admit, for example, that they did not finish their homework because they were up until midnight caring for their mother.”
She added: “These are forgotten children who are being isolated from their peers as they struggle with school and their own mental health.”
Hege Sæbjørnsen, of IKEA UK, said: “Together with Barnardo’s we have an amazing opportunity to deliver a long-term positive impact on the lives of the most vulnerable children and young people in society through sharing expertise and resources, leveraging our unique skills and scale, and more traditional fundraising.”
The charity cites cases such as:
A 15-year-old promising foot-baller from Newcastle often misses team practice and can’t study to look after three younger siblings due to a sick parent.
A teenage girl has been looking after her mum, a victim of domestic violence.
She quit school when she was 15, and said: “Every day I go home [I wonder] will I have to call the police, what will happen today? Every night she [mum] would have a breakdown, I don’t think teachers understand that stress at the time just puts extra stress on a young carer.”
A carer, now 18, told how she suffered from depression in secondary school and stopped eating and socialising. She said: “I can’t go to the doctors on my own. I can’t go to McDonald’s. I have panic attacks as I haven’t had the opportunity to go out and be a young person.”
A 13-year-old, from Preston looks after her mother, a divorcee with mental health problems, and helps run the home. She said her father, who is an alcoholic, “tried to help but messes everything up”
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