A young carer is aged under 18. There are many young people and children in Northern Ireland who care for someone else. If you are a young carer, it’s important that you get the support you need from social services and your school.
Your choices about caring
Some people start caring at a very young age and don’t realise they are young carers. Other young people become carers overnight. Most young carers look after one of their parents or care for a brother or sister.
If you are a young carer, the support available to you should mean that:
- you don't have to carry out a regular and significant amount of caring for a young person with disabilities
- you don't take on caring responsibilities similar to an adult's
It’s important you decide how much, and what type of care you’re willing or able to give. You need to decide whether you’re the right person to offer the care that the person you look after needs.
Support from social services
An adult with a disability, illness or mental health condition is entitled to support from social services, depending on their needs,. They should not have to rely on young people to care for them.
It’s important that social services ensures the whole family feels supported and that you, as a young carer, are comfortable with your role in the family.
Assessments for young carers
If you are a young carer, you are entitled to a young carer's needs assessment. Your local Health and Social Care Trust or the Regional Young Carers Service will make the assessment to decide what help you and your family might need. Their assessment should look at:
- the level of care you give and whether you want to be a carer
- how your caring affects your education, training or opportunities to relax
- how your caring role makes you feel about the future
- everybody that matters to you
- any support that could be provided to help you and your family
You should always receive a written copy of your assessment, and you should be told what to do if you don't agree with the assessment.
Support at school
There are different ways your school can help. They could allow you to use a telephone at break and lunchtime so you can check on the person you’re looking after.
The school could also:
- put you in touch with your local young carers service
- arrange a young carers worker to talk to you
- deliver a lesson at your school
Some schools run lunchtime groups or homework support groups for young carers.
If you’re having trouble with school or homework, you can ask your teacher for support such as:
- extra time for schoolwork when the person you care for is ill
- help for your parents to travel to parents’ evenings if they have trouble leaving the house
- talking to you privately about your home life
- homework clubs
Local advice and support
There are other organisations that can help you as a young carer. They understand what it is like to be a young carer and have useful information and advice. Some also organise fun things to do and give you the opportunity to meet other young carers.
- Action for Children Young Carers Service
- telephone number: 028 9046 0500
- Supporting young carers (Action for Children website)
- Barnardo's Young Carers Service
- telephone: 028 7963 4402
- Young carers (Barnardo's website)
- Crossroads Caring for Carers
- telephone: 028 9181 4455
- Crossroads Young Carers website