Care o’Clock: Young carers’ Q&A with Robert Buckland MP
As part of our Care o’ Clock campaign to help raise awareness about the issues faced by young adult carers, young carers from Swindon Carers Centre recently put some questions forward to their MP Robert Buckland, to give him the opportunity to tell us about why he thinks young carers and young adult carers should be supported and what can be done to make a positive difference to their lives.
Robert Buckland MP has been working with Carers Trust to help ensure that the Government changes the law for young carers so that they stronger rights to assessment and support.
Young carers: What do you think are the biggest issues for young carers and their families in your area (Swindon) and across the country?
Robert Buckland MP: The recognition of their needs is the most important issue facing young carers and families in England. We know that the official number of young carers is only the tip of the iceberg because many are not identified, let alone receive the support that they need.
If young carers don’t get the same level of support as adult carers, we risk leaving them alone with difficult caring situations which can permanently damage their life prospects. I do not believe that allowing those kinds of situation to occur is acceptable.
We need to make sure all young people are given equal opportunities to grow and achieve. So I would like to see professionals like teachers and doctors take the time to understand what caring involves and how it can affect children’s lives
Young carers: In what ways have you been supporting carers of all ages both locally and nationally?
Robert Buckland MP: I have been supporting amendments to the Children and Families Bill regarding young carers and am delighted that the Government is now adopting these proposals. I am also working locally with the Swindon Carers Centre who are doing some great work to support young carers in my constituency.
I was recently shocked to hear about the number of young adult carers – in the UK there are at least 375,000 young people between 14-25 caring for someone in the family or a friend. Currently, this group are not well recognised or supported and there is a lot we can do to improve this situation. For example, what are universities and colleges doing to help support young carers who want to continue with their education?
I will continue to do what I can in the Houses of Parliament to raise these issues and locally to support carers.
Young carers: How aware are you of the pressures and difficulties young carers are placed in due to the family circumstances as many are not old enough or in the position to just leave home? What do you think would help families in these situations?
Robert Buckland MP: As a parent of a young carer, I am aware of at least some of the pressures and difficulties that are placed on their shoulders. We need to find new ways of supporting young carers to achieve the things they want to achieve and have time to enjoy the same activities that other children do. It is also important that support is provided to the whole family, including the person who the young carer is looking after. It is really important that we are not seeing situations where a child’s caring responsibilities are causing a level of stress and anxiety that prevent them from going to school and fulfilling their own potential.
Young carers: What are you doing to help to ensure that young carers are seen by the professionals that support their parents (i.e. those carrying out assessments with parents and not taking into account that their main carer might be under 18)?
Robert Buckland MP: I have tabled an amendment to the Children and Families Bill that will enable young carers to be seen by professionals working in both children and adult’s services. The amendment links to the Care Bill which will require local authorities to take a whole family approach and will help to ensure that young carers are considered when their parent is being assessed for care and support. It has been invaluable working with the Carers Trust to develop these legislative proposals.
Young carers: How can health care professionals (including GP’s and hospital staff) be more aware and understanding when talking to us (young carers) about our own health?
Background from Swindon Carers Centre: One 16 year-old carer recently reported that after breaking their leg rushing down the stairs to help at home, no hospital staff asked if they had a caring responsibility. Schools and colleges seem to be very different: pupils are asked on forms and at interviews about caring and if they require additional support.
Robert Buckland MP: Hospitals and GPs should ask as a matter of course about caring responsibilities, so that situations like this do not happen again. Across the whole spectrum of health and social care, we need a common approach to these interlinked problems. There is lots of work to be done — but the recent proposals to the law for young carers are a huge opportunity to improve support for young carer and their families across health and social care.
The Carers Trust Care o’ Clock campaign took place in the week of the 27th and 28th October, when the clocks changed — giving everyone an extra hour in their day.
For many young adult carers, the extra hour means only additional time spent caring, while the rest of us can use that time for ourselves. Carers Trust and young adult carers have been asking MPs ‘How will you use your extra hour to support young adult carers?’
Thank you to all the young carers, Swindon Carers Centre and Robert Buckland MP for taking part.