New drive to improve Young Carers’ health
Oxfordshire County Council is teaming up with GP surgeries to boost the health and wellbeing of young people who have long-term caring commitments and ease the burden of their responsibilities.
The council’s Young Carers Service is working with health providers to improve support for those who care for a family member with physical or mental illness, disability or addiction problems.
In Oxfordshire more than 2,600 young carers have been identified and received support since 2008, but it is thought as many as 12,000 young people across the county could currently have some form of care responsibility at home.
Recent national research has shown:
- Young carers providing 50+ hours of care a week are up to five times more likely to report their general health as ‘not good’
- 48 per cent of young carers said the role made them feel stressed and 44 per cent said it made them feel tired
- 38 per cent of young carers who took part in a school survey had mental health problems.
Awareness posters and young carer business cards have been issued to GP surgeries, to signpost people to the council’s young carers service. The council has also contacted surgeries directly, encouraging them to look out for young carers who may be among their patients and consider putting themselves forward as ‘Young Carer Champions’ – a network of professionals who have received further training to support young carers.
Oxfordshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Children and Family Services Melinda Tilley said: “It’s important to recognise that children and young people’s mental and physical health can be affected by their caring role, but these problems can remain invisible if children and their families are unaware support is available or simply don’t recognise there is a young carer in their household.”
Cllr Tilley added: “In the case of GP visits, it might not be apparent that there is a child or young person providing care for the patient at home, especially if they are not attending appointments with that person. There might be opportunities for surgeries to reach out to young carers and to make sure their role in providing care is fully understood - as well as the implications for the young carer’s own health.
“In addition to the links we have with schools across the county, healthcare settings can play an important role in identifying young carers, signposting them to other services and providing support themselves.”
Dr Barbara Batty, a local doctor and Carers Lead at Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said: “GPs across Oxfordshire are keen to support young carers as they play an important role helping family members cope with their illness and daily chores. We want to ensure these carers remain healthy and get the support they need if they become unwell because of their caring responsibilities. That’s why the CCG is encouraging local doctors to promote the scheme in their surgeries.”
National Young Carers Awareness Day
The initiative has been launched in Oxfordshire to coincide with national Young Carers Awareness Day on January 26. The annual event aims to highlight the impacts of being a young carer on the lives of some 700,000 children and young people across the UK.