Nearly three quarters (72 per cent) of young carers feel lonely during the summer holidays, according to worrying new research released today by Action for Children and Carers Trust.
The survey of young carers under 18 years old reveals nearly half (47 per cent) spend more than four hours a day during the summer caring for a relative – the equivalent of losing an entire week of their holidays.
And while many families are enjoying quality time together on a trip away, thousands of young carers are stuck at home – shockingly, one in five (20 per cent) said they have never been on a summer holiday with their family.
With so much time taken up caring for loved ones and less time to relax, more than two thirds (68 per cent) feel more stressed or worried during the holidays; while more than half (57 per cent) worry about talking about what they did in the summer break when they go back to school.
There are an estimated 700,000 children and young people across the UK caring for a family member with a disability, illness or mental health problem – some as young as five years old. Typically, young carers help with practical tasks around the home such as cooking, housework and shopping; physical care, such as helping someone out of bed; and personal care, such as helping someone dress.
Funded support for vulnerable young carers, such as respite services, continues to be put on the back-burner. Action for Children and Carers Trust are calling on the government to ensure local authorities have the funding they need to provide all young carers and their families with support. Without it these vulnerable children and families are left without help, which hugely affects young carers’ life chances.
Carol Iddon, Action for Children’s managing director of children’s services, said: “The summer holidays can be heart-breaking for young carers who are often isolated and trapped at home, while their friends are having fun in the sunshine, playing sports or enjoying adventures abroad.
“We see first-hand the awful impact of loneliness and stress on young carers, who dedicate their lives to helping their loved ones. These children are often desperate for a break from their duties and to have a bit of fun in their holidays – that’s why young carer respite services are such a lifeline for them.”
Giles Meyer, chief executive of Carers Trust, said: “Summer can be an incredibly difficult time for young carers who may feel more stressed, lonely or sad than usual, and long to have a summer holiday just like everyone else. Carers Trust know that too many young carers go without support over the holidays and our evidence shows that being a young carer is a risk factor for their mental health.
“Whilst our joint Young Carers in Schools programme provides many young carers with the support they need to do well during term time, this support doesn’t happen in the holidays when schools are closed; if local councils don’t step in, this can mean young carers need to do more caring over the summer.”