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Young carers wiped off the map of financial support

If you were anything like me when I was a teenager, then you’ll have thought it was pretty tough. Pressure all round – to Young carer helping his brotherbe the same as your friends and fit in, to try to look good despite the spots, to succeed in exams, and all the hormones and other challenges that go with growing up and finding your place in the world.

To be honest I had it pretty easy. Young carers have got all this plus their caring responsibilities – perhaps looking after a mum or dad with a mental health problem, or a health condition like MS or cancer or a sibling with a disability, or looking after the other kids and the house because mum or dad aren’t able to. We know that one of the main caring roles young carers take on is emotional support – extremely demanding on a young person not yet sure of their emotions themselves . Although many young carers can and do succeed despite the difficulties, many others lose out on school, miss opportunities to develop friendships, miss chances to take part in activities which others take for granted.

Education Maintenance Allowance was one benefit that really helped young carers. For those young carers that bit of cash helped them stay at school and gave them a chance. That money wasn’t an extra luxury – it was money which formed an essential part of their family income. We know, because we asked them. EMA was quietly whipped away in England and Wales with no consultation, in the early days of the Coalition Government ( it still remains in Scotland). The Government said it was ineffective. I don’t know how they came to this conclusion seeing as they didn’t really ask.

Today Barnardo’s have published a reporting looking at the impact of the replacement 16-19 Bursary, which some young people can get, but misses out many thousands of young carers who previously would have qualified for EMA. The term they use is “disastrous”. One young carer called Foram who looks after her mother with bipolar disorder is in desperate straits:

Foram frequently misses meals or alternates eating with her sister who is in the year above her. They are putting their own health at risk to hide the financial situation from their mother. Not surprisingly, Foram is suffering from depression and anxiety herself.

The poorest students are being failed and young carers, in particular, miss out and may have to drop out of school. And of course young carers in full time education can’t get Carers Allowance either.

I wonder how anyone thinks a young carer is supposed to survive let alone flourish when they’re wiped off the map of financial support. Barnardo’s suggest all 16-19s in full time education who used to be on free school meals should get the bursary – that would pick up young carers on low incomes and would cost less than EMA did. To give young carers a chance at a future, that sounds cheap to me.

Barnardo’s report “Staying the course” is at http://www.barnardos.org.uk/stayingthecourse.pdf

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February 7, 2012 Posted by | Young carers | , , , , , , | 3 Comments