5. Young Carers
Young carers are supported; and protected from inappropriate caring and negative impacts on their education, social lives and future development.
5.1 Why this is important
There are an estimated 31,000 young carers in Scotland under the age of 18. Young carers often go above and beyond what is expected of them as young people.
We know that caring can be a positive experience for many young people, where they are supported to manage that role appropriately, and to have a life alongside it. Through caring, young people often develop mature, valuable skills and values and a sense of pride and increased self-esteem from their role.
However where young carers undertake inappropriate caring responsibilities or care for long hours, this can have a detrimental effect on their wellbeing. It could also negatively impact on their educational attainment, relationships with their peer group and affect their mental health.
It is recognised that young carers often find it challenging to identify that they have additional responsibilities. Many have grown up with caring being part of their family dynamic and these extra tasks can feel normal to them. There can also be stigma associated with a younger person undertaking a caring role. Sometimes families or young people will have concerns about potential negative repercussions of social work intervention, leading to young carers actively avoiding seeking help or support. A lack of awareness or support for their caring role can therefore lead to young people feeling lonely and isolated. As a consequence of all of this, there are many young carers who do not identify, either through a lack of awareness, or through choice.
Research also shows that young carers feel that their experiences and knowledge in relation to the cared-for person are often overlooked by professionals leaving them feeling excluded and undermined.
Young people aged 16-18 are often at a transition point in their lives as they finish school, get their first job, or undertake further study and training. However, opportunities that are the norm and open to most young people can be restricted for young carers due to the additional responsibilities and pressures that come with caring.
Evidence shows that young carers have poorer physical and mental wellbeing than non-carers, and are more likely to live in the most deprived areas. Young carers also report experiences of social isolation.
5.2 Our approach
Many of the rights, policies and opportunities laid out in the preceding chapters also apply or are available to young carers. This chapter therefore highlights policies and approaches specific to young carers which contribute to carer voice and engagement, health and social care and financial and social inclusion.
The principles and values embedded in the Getting it right for every child (GIRFEC) approach apply for young carers. Getting it right for every child is Scotland's approach to promoting and improving the wellbeing of every child, including those who hold a caring role.
This approach is based on children's rights, taking their development, decisions made in their best interests and respect for their views into consideration. The GIRFEC principles reflect the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).
GIRFEC is central to all government policies which support children, young people and their families and is delivered by encouraging service providers, third sector organisations and public bodes to work in collaboration with children, young people and their families. This will allow children and young people to achieve their full potential across all of the SHANARRI wellbeing indicators, helping them to thrive and be able to better respond to the challenges and opportunities that life brings. GIRFEC also respects parents' rights under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).
In April 2018, the Carers (Scotland) Act established new rights for young carers, including a right to a young carer statement which will identify any personal outcomes that are important to them and their needs for support. The Act also introduces new rights for young carers to be involved in conversations and decision-making about any support provided to the cared-for person, including when they are being discharged from hospital. We are clear that, for our young people, caring should not be a barrier to education, social and leisure opportunities, or accessing education or employment.
Schools play a key role in identifying and supporting many young carers and the rights under the Act work are intended to work alongside provisions about additional support for learning as well as the GIRFEC approach.
5.3 Young carer voice and engagement
5.3.1 Scottish Young Carers Festival
The Scottish Young Carers Festival is an annual event that has taken place since 2008. It is funded by the Scottish Government and delivered on our behalf by Carers Trust Scotland and the Scottish Young Carers Services Alliance.
As well as enabling young carers from across Scotland to take a break from caring and enjoy leisure activities with their peers, the Festival gives young carers an opportunity to have their voices heard by talking to local and national decision makers about what matters to them and providing feedback for national consultations. In recent years, this has helped bring some key young carer issues to the fore and played a role in influencing national and local policy development.
Young carers are usually able to attend the Festival in a group from their local young carers service.
5.3.2 Young Carer Panel
The Young Carer Panel is an invaluable aspect of the social security Experience Panels discussed in section 2.3.5. The views of over 50 young adults with experience of regular care are represented in the Panel. The group have shared the impact of their caring responsibilities and helped shape specific aspects of the new Young Carer Grant.
5.4 Health and social care
5.4.1 Carers Act for young carers
The Carers Act introduces many of the same rights for young carers as it does for adult carers. Young carers have a right to a young carer statement to help identify their needs for support and personal outcomes. For more information on this, please see Chapter 2 on Health and Social Care Support.
Funded by the Scottish Government, Carers Trust Scotland and the Scottish Young Carers Services Alliance have produced a Young Carers Jargon Buster which aims to help explain some of the more difficult terminology in the Act, for young carers.
To assist with the transition from young carer to adult carer, the Carers Act makes provision for a young carer statement, and any support that comes from it, to be maintained until the preparation of an adult carer support plan.
5.4.2 Keeping young carers safe from harm
It is important to ensure that young carers are enabled to be children and young people are first and foremost and relieved of any inappropriate roles to allow them to have a quality of life. For some children and young people in certain situations a response to risk of harm may be required without delay following the local multi-agency child protection guidelines.
5.5 Support in schools
Schools play a unique role in identifying and supporting young carers. With GIRFEC, education staff have a responsibility to support the wellbeing of every child. They need to take into consideration any wider influences on the child or young person when thinking about their wellbeing, so that the right support can be offered. This includes the impact of caring on a child or young person.
We know that young carers often report feeling isolated, stigmatised, bullied and unsupported in schools due to their caring role and that caring can lead to increased absenteeism or lateness.
However, research also shows that young carers are more likely to enjoy their time spent at school than the general school population. This may be because they see this time as an opportunity to engage with friends and as time away from caring.
5.5.1 Additional Support for Learning
It may be that young carers will require some additional support to enable them to make the most of their learning and to reach their full potential. This can be long or short term depending on need. Education authorities have duties to identify, provide for and review the additional support needs of all their pupils. This includes ensuring that there are the staff and resources in place to support pupils in their learning.
The latest amendments to the legislation mean that children who are aged 12 to 15 will be able to ask for their additional support needs to be identified and planned for and be part of discussions about the support they will receive.
The service My Rights, My Say supports children and young people to help them secure the use of their own rights under additional support for learning legislation.
5.6 Social and financial inclusion
5.6.1 Young Carer Grant
We will launch our new Young Carer Grant for those young carers aged 16 to 18, with significant caring responsibilities. The Grant is a £300 annual payment for carers aged 16 to 18 and will be available in autumn 2019.
It is intended that the Grant helps young carers to:
- look after their own health and wellbeing, improve their quality of life and reduce any negative impact of caring
- participate fully in society and, if they choose, engage in training, education and employment opportunities, as well as social and leisure
- have an increased sense of control and empowerment over their lives.
The grant will be available to young carers who provide care to a person(s) normally paid a qualifying disability benefit, care for 16 hours a week and to those who do not qualify for Carer's Allowance. Young carers will be able to combine the number of hours spent providing care for up to three people in order to meet the 16 hours eligibility criteria.
5.6.2 Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA)
EMA is available in Scotland to eligible people aged 16 to 19 who have reached school leaving age.
Scottish Funding Council guidance encourages local authorities and colleges to promote the uptake of EMA to young carers. The guidance also highlights that a degree of flexibility around attendance patterns should be afforded to young carers when administering EMA. To enable this to happen, young carers should highlight their caring responsibility on the EMA application form. A conversation to agree on a suitable flexible attendance pattern should take place with the school or college, and then written into the student's Learning Agreement.
5.6.3 Transitions from school to higher and further education
Young adult carers, between around ages 16 to 25, face particular pressures as they may be leaving school, and transitioning into college or university. At this key stage, it can also be especially hard to juggle this change with the demands and responsibilities of their caring role.
126.96.36.199 Support from Education Authorities
Education authorities have specific duties to prepare pupils with additional support needs for their post-school transition, which should happen no later than 2 years before they leave school.
Young people with additional support needs should engage personally in the transition planning process. Whatever prospective school leavers require to learn in order to make the transition successful should, in good practice, be planned carefully and in a timely manner.
188.8.131.52 Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS)funding support
SAAS has worked closely with key stakeholders, including the Scottish Youth Parliament, Carers Trust Scotland and student carers, to better understand the needs of student carers and raise awareness of higher education student support.
SAAS has engaged with student carers to gather feedback on our literature and aspects of our online application that are relevant to this cohort to ensure they understand the support available to them and how to access this support. Some of the support available to student carers includes the dependent's grant . This is an income-assessed grant that SAAS may pay out to student carers who meet the criteria.
184.108.40.206 University and college support for student carers
There are two award schemes which promote better support for student carers, one is aimed at further education colleges and the other at universities. The 'Going Further for Student Carers Recognition Award' scheme assists and encourages further education colleges to develop their policies and practices to improve support for student carers.
The 'Going Higher for Student Carers Recognition Award' provides a framework for universities to ensure they are identifying and supporting student carers. This helps them to develop their policies and practices to improve support for student carers at university.
Both schemes have been developed by Carers Trust Scotland, supported by the Scottish Funding Council who are funded by the Scottish Government. The Going Further for Student Carers Recognition Award is also supported by the College Development Network.
5.6.4 Support into employment
Please see Chapter 4 on Social and Financial Inclusion for more information on this.
5.6.5 Free bus travel for recipients of the Young Carer Grant
We have committed to introduce free bus travel for recipients of the Young Carer Grant during financial year 2020-21.
5.6.6 Young Scot card extra discounts and opportunities
Young Scot has launched a new and exclusive package of discounts and opportunities for young carers with a Young Scot card across Scotland to access and enjoy.
Co-created with a young carer "vision panel", the development of the new package has been fully informed by young carers and is fully funded by the Scottish Government. A simple application is required through the Young Scot website which also contains further information about what's on offer.