Children who are young carers say more recognition is essential

26th February 24

Young carer sisters togetherWe at Caring Together Charity and young carers are calling for more to be done to help children and young people who are looking after a family member.

There are almost 4,000 children and young people under the age of 18 across Cambridgeshire, Peterborough and Norfolk who are caring for someone. But it is years before many are recognised as ‘young carers’. This can have a big impact on their education, health and wellbeing.

Young Carers Action Day 2024 is coming up on 13 March. Each of us simply being able to recognise someone is a young carer and understand what that means would have a huge impact on their lives.

Sisters Shannon, 17, Erin, 16, and Roisin, 12, all help to care for their parents and are among the young carers who have said too many people do not recognise what being a young carer is like.

Shannon said, “Before our first lesson we’ve already done a whole day of work… and it doesn’t stop when we get home.

“Mum and Dad are always there when we need them and we’re always there when they need us.”

Their dad has fibromyalgia, ME and is diabetic, while their mum has auditory processing and sensory processing disorder. As well as helping their dad with medication, the sisters share household jobs of cleaning, doing the laundry, washing the car, preparing meals and more.

Aside from long and busy days the sisters explained the impacts caring can have on young carers, such as forgetting things they need for school, missing out on hobbies, teachers not realising the pressures they face and friends not understanding why they can’t go out.

Shannon said, “Nine times out of 10, the person themselves doesn’t know they’re a young carer, and if you don’t know you’re a carer then you can’t be identified by anyone else.”

Roisin said, “People don’t know what young caring is about, and what responsibilities I have to have.”

They say being recognised as young carers and supported make a huge difference. Shannon said, “Every Monday we attend an after-school group for young carers, and we do little activities for just an hour or two, to take the load off of everyone.

“Or maybe you do need that extra time and support, and you don’t need to be shouted that because you’ve had a rough morning.”

Erin praised the benefits of young carer activities provided by Caring Together, including of knowing she is around other young carers, “I get to be around people who are in the same position as me.

“The trips just make me happy. They give me a break, they make me be able to breathe properly.”

And she said having people giving support is vital, “I’m here for you’ is the biggest thing, the most powerful thing anyone could ever say to someone.

“Don’t ever judge by someone by the way that they look. Because you never know what’s going on.”

We at Caring Together Charity have support available for young carers, and have put together simple ways each of us can help more young carers be recognised and supported.

Miriam Martin, Caring Together chief executive officer said, “Young carers can face huge responsibilities and yet many people do not even realise there are thousands of children in our area who help to care for someone.

“As young carers have told us, they ‘just want to feel seen and understood’, and that is really not much to ask!

“Please just take one moment to see what they have told us can help, and how easy it can be to take a small action. If you and others understand what it is to be a young carer, this will mean more of them will be recognised and appreciated this Young Carers Action Day.”

You can see more about what it is like to be a young carer and how you can help them feel seen and understood at

And watch a video of Shannon, Erin and Roisin speaking about their caring roles below.

Facts about young carers

  • Young carers are children under the age of 18 who help to look after someone who needs their help due to a disability, illness, mental health condition, or drug or alcohol problem.
  • Census 2021 found there are almost 4000 young carers across Cambridgeshire, Peterborough and Norfolk.
    • The actual figure is likely to be much higher due to people not realising they or someone in their family are a young carer.
  • At the end of last year an All-Party Parliamentary Group for Young Carers and Young Adult Carers report found:
    • Some young carers have to wait 10 years before being identified and the average waiting time to be identified for support was three years.
    • Being a young carer has a knock-on effect on school attainment and attendance, with young carers missing 27 school days per year on average.
    • Young adult carers are substantially (38%) less likely to achieve a university degree than their peers without a caring role. Those caring for 35 or more hours a week are 86% less likely.
    • See more about this report by clicking here