Young carers can benefit from the caring contribution they make. It can provide them with personal skills and an important role in the family, which enables them to demonstrate their commitment and affection. However, the demands of caring can also be onerous and can have an adverse impact on young carers' health and well-being. The responsibilities of caring can deny a young person their rights and can compromise their safety.
Early intervention is necessary to prevent this. By identifying, assessing and supporting young carers, agencies and practitioners can relieve them of inappropriate caring roles and enable them to be children and young people, first and foremost. Adequate and timely support enhances young carers' opportunities to become successful learners, confident individuals, effective contributors and responsible citizens.
The Government's Headline Actions
The following are the key headline actions in this strategy to help improve outcomes for young carers:
1. We will continue to engage with young carers to identify their needs and priorities and to inform the development of policy. The Scottish Government will fund a fourth Scottish Young Carers Festival in 2011, which will provide us with feedback from young carers on the implementation and impact of this strategy, as well as progress in implementing Getting It Right For Every Child ( GIRFEC).
2. We will put in place measures to help professionals in education, health and social care to identify young carers. Young carer identification opens the door to assessment, through the approach of the GIRFEC practice model, which in turn leads to the provision of support. There will be a strong emphasis on workforce training, as members of the workforce who are 'young carer-aware' have a big role to play.
3. We will introduce a classification of 'young carers' in the 2011 school census, which will report on the numbers of young carers who have been identified in schools. By identifying young carers in schools we will learn more about the numbers of young carers and the impact of caring. This may also help ensure that the young carers who are identified are adequately supported.
4. Recognising the important role of school staff in identifying and supporting young carers, particularly in the context of Curriculum for Excellence , the Scottish Government will work with the Scottish Young Carers Services Alliance to produce a practice guide on young carers for teachers and schools.
5. We will improve the provision of information and advice to young carers through various means, including workforce training and our support for NHSinform, who will be launching online a Carers Information Zone.
6. We will enhance our understanding of the impact of caring on young carers through the commissioning of research into the characteristics of young carers being supported by dedicated young carers' services.
7. The provision of short breaks or respite is hugely important to young carers. We will work with a range of partners to promote the further development of flexible, personalised short breaks.
8. Skills Development Scotland will design and develop suitable materials and training opportunities to support young carers' services' contact with young adult carers.
9. To encourage young adult carers to plan to achieve their career aspirations, Skills Development Scotland will refresh their publicity materials for young carers, so as to highlight their options and the support that is available.
10. We will progress a range of actions to improve support to young adult carers. These will respond to the recommendations produced by a sub-group of the Young Carers Strategy Steering Group and outlined in Appendix 5.
Appendix 1 sets out the membership of the Young Carers Strategy Steering Group which helped inform strategy development.
Chapter 1: Action Plan and Implementation
Chapter 1 provides a brief outline of the measures that we will take to monitor the implementation of this strategy.
Chapter 2: Introduction
Chapter 2 provides an introduction to the Young Carers Strategy. We explain that we have produced this strategy because we are concerned about the effects that caring can have on young people's health, well-being and development. These can prevent young carers from achieving the positive outcomes outlined in the Scottish Government's National Performance Framework.
We refer to the definition of a 'young carer' from the Care 21 Report as "a child or young person aged under 18 who has a significant role in looking after someone else who is experiencing illness or disability."
We make clear that our policy objective and strategic commitment is that, whilst recognising the positive benefits that caring can bring, we want to relieve young carers of inappropriate caring roles that have an adverse impact on their health and well-being. We want to enable them to be children and young people, first and foremost.
We highlight the strong and essential links between this Young Carers Strategy and other Scottish Government policy developments, with particular reference to the Getting It Right For Every Child ( GIRFEC) programme. We recognise how universal services and policies promote and protect children and young people's health and well-being and how young carers are amongst those who can benefit most. We emphasise the relevance and importance of the 'United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child' for young carers.
This strategy has been informed by the views of young carers, by their contributions to the two Scottish Young Carer Festivals, by the workers who support them and by input from a wide range of stakeholders.
We set out the Scottish Government and COSLA's commitment to supporting young carers and delivering the strategy. We also demonstrate local authorities' and Health Boards' commitment to delivering incremental improvements to support for young carers, despite the economic challenges we face.
Chapter 3: Profile of Young Carers
Chapter 3 outlines what we know about young carers - their numbers, gender, caring tasks and time spent caring.
We highlight how some studies have estimated there to be more than 100,000 young carers in Scotland (although not all will be the main carer and not all suffer adverse affects from the caring role). However, only 3,500 young carers are supported by dedicated young carers' services. Young carers are very much a hidden population, not recognised by the services that could support them and often not recognising themselves as young carers.
This chapter highlights the value of the Getting It Right For Every Child approach. Without necessarily having to be identified as a young carer, these young people can benefit from universal and more specialist services working together to ensure that they are safe, healthy, active, nurtured, achieving, respected, responsible and included.
We identify specific groups of young carers, whom we acknowledge we need to know more about.
Chapter 4: The Effects of Caring on Young Carers
Chapter 4 highlights the effects of caring. We outline that caring can be positive for young carers, enabling them to gain skills, purpose, self-esteem and many personal attributes. We highlight that we want to provide adequate support to enable young people to continue to benefit from caring, without this becoming too onerous.
We focus on the adverse effects that caring can have on children and young people. We highlight how their caring role can impact on their: educational attendance, attainment, achievement and ambition; physical, emotional and mental health; psychological well-being; social contact and relationships; and financial security. In some extreme situations, young carers can experience neglect and abuse.
Chapter 5: Identification of Young Carers
Chapter 5 reiterates the key message from the Scottish Young Carers Festivals, that practitioners in health, social work and education all have a very important role in identifying and then supporting young carers.
We refer to examples of good practice where agencies are currently working effectively, in partnership, with local dedicated young carers' services to enhance practitioners' awareness of young carers' issues and to then identify and support them. We highlight the importance of early identification, in order to prevent the negative impact that caring can have on children and young people.
We identify a range of developments that will further raise awareness and enhance practitioners' efforts to identify and support young carers. In particular, we recognise the contribution of GIRFEC, and Curriculum for Excellence, as well as developments in the NHS and the importance of workforce training in health and social care.
Chapter 6: Young Carers Assessment
Chapter 6 highlights how a good, personalised assessment enables young carers to express their views and feelings, to be recognised as a young carer and then to access appropriate and adequate support to help them achieve their potential. Despite this, few young carers are assessed.
We highlight how this will be addressed through the universal approach of GIRFEC. This provides assessment tools and a framework for practitioners in all agencies to work more effectively together, to gather and analyse information about a young person's strengths, pressures on them and support needs.
We outline how the provisions of the Additional Support for Learning legislation will benefit young carers, whose caring contribution can affect their achievements at school.
Chapter 7: Supporting Young Carers
Chapter 7 provides information on the range of support that is available to enable young carers to continue to provide appropriate levels of care and that can help relieve them of onerous caring demands. It emphasises the need for a preventative approach, where adequate support is provided before difficulties arise.
This chapter highlights that no care package should depend on a child or young person's contribution and that the most effective way of relieving young carers of inappropriate caring roles is by health and social care services adequately meeting the cared-for person's needs.
We set out how young carers benefit from the support provided by dedicated young carers' services, where the workers understand their situation and young carers are able to enjoy new opportunities with other young people in a similar situation.
We highlight how important school-based support is to young carers and refer to current good practice, which will be given impetus by Curriculum for Excellence with its focus on pupils' health and well-being. We also highlight a number of particular practical measures that schools can take, which can make a significant difference in improving opportunities and outcomes for young carers.
This chapter also highlights the importance of practitioners addressing young carers' emotional and mental health needs, providing information, advice, advocacy, breaks from caring and training opportunities.
Chapter 8: Young Adult Carers
Chapter 8 sets out the particular challenges facing young adult carers, whose transition into adulthood can be all the more challenging because of the pressures arising from their caring role and contribution.
We highlight how, at a time when their peers are leaving school and making positive plans for employment, training and education, young adult carers often have to deal with demands, responsibilities and emotional pressures that may limit their future opportunities.
We identify a number of action points that we will progress with our partners. These will both support young adults as carers and also enhance their opportunities to access training, education or employment.