Academics want affirmative action for young carers and are calling for policies that go beyond simply levelling the playing field in a new study launched at the EU parliament today.
The new study, the largest ever of young carers across six European countries, warns that governments’ failure to take proactive action on behalf of young carers could be in breach of their human rights.
The Me-We project, which features academics from the University of Sussex, recommends a number of policy initiatives to more proactively support young carers including:
Saul Becker, Professor of Social Work and Social Policy at the University of Sussex, said; “Young carers are a particularly vulnerable group and should be recognised as such. They should not only benefit from the universal implementation of their rights but be subject to additional and tailored policy and support measures with a scale and intensity that is proportionate to their level of disadvantage.
“International human rights law requires States to adopt affirmative actions in fulfilling their obligations to respect the equality principle. One could argue the lack of positive actions from States to support young carers is a failure to protect and promote these rights.”
The study also reveals several of the significant challenges that young carers in the UK face including:
Mental Health – 60% of UK young carers in the study reported mental health problems because of their caring. 30% of adolescent young carers have thought about hurting themselves. 12% have thought about hurting others (of these, 43% have thought of hurting the person they care for).
Physical health – 30% of adolescent young carers reported physical health problems due to their caring role.
Education – 41% of young carers reported experiencing difficulties in school due to their caring responsibilities. 22% experienced negative school performance and 37% had endured bullying, teasing, or being made fun of, due to caring.
Feylyn Lewis, Research Fellow in the School of Education and Social Work at the University of Sussex, said: “As our study shows, young carers face enormous challenges when it comes to almost all aspects of their life including education and maintaining good physical and mental wellbeing. While there is fantastic support projects here in the UK and we have seen some legislative advances for young carers in recent years, much more needs to happen to ensure that young carers are adequately supported to carry out the hugely challenging role they selflessly fulfil.”
The report states that the UK has an advanced recognition of young carers amongst public, policy makers and professionals and a huge amount of nationally dispersed charity and voluntary projects unmatched by any other surveyed country.
But it also warned that limited public sector funding and resources may be responsible for: