Identifying support needs of young carers

The Care Act 2014 requires councils to identify young carers who are not receiving children’s services but who are likely to have support needs of their own as a young adult carer. Many young carers may not be known to children’s services and remain hidden or unidentified. There may also be some who are known to independent young carers or early help services but not children’s services. Also, young carers may not realise that they are carers and this can make identification particularly difficult. This means that when local authorities develop identification strategies they need to incorporate a range of methods to recognise young carers.

Local authorities need to consider how to identify young carers as early as possible in the same way as they have to identify a young person likely to have care and support needs as an adult. This will enable them to ensure the timeliness of their intervention. In other words, if the assessment and plan are ‘late’, the benefit to the carer will not be as significant as if they are carried out at the right time to maximise the choice and wellbeing of that person.

SCIE's briefing on early and comprehensive identification sets out further guidance on how to establish mechanisms to identify young people as early as possible. [3] This is so that local authorities can plan for or prevent the development of care and support needs and thereby fulfil their duty in relation to the timing of assessments and ‘significant benefit’.

Local authorities must assess the needs of young carers as they approach adulthood wherever they are likely to be in need of support as an adult, regardless of whether or not they currently receive any services. Young carers known to children’s services may already have case workers supporting them and have integrated support with other services.

It is important that children’s and adult services (including education and health) work together to develop methods of identifying young carers approaching 18. There should be a whole-family approach with protocols in place across a wide range of local partnerships to enable local authorities to be better coordinated.

Ways of identifying young carers include:

Appendix 2 outlines a process map of the stages from identification to transition and puts forward suggestions as to how to put the stages into action.

Practice examples

Multi-disciplinary working involves time for practitioners, particularly if services operate different management systems. Liverpool City Council is one of several councils implementing an integrated system so that both children’s and adult departments can use the same information system and access education and health information through a standard integration protocol. The council’s work was influenced by a need to integrate both information and action. It was also influenced by the practice of having a whole-family approach – thinking about the child, parent and family.

Young Carers in Schools is an innovative, England-wide initiative run jointly by the Carers Trust, The Children’s Society and Young Carers in Focus partners. The programme aims to help ensure that young carers are identified early and get the support they need by equipping schools to support young carers and awarding good practice. The initiative is funded by The Queen’s Trust and the Big Lottery Fund. Selected schools have the opportunity to be the first to implement the initiative. These schools will be trialling the following resource – ‘Supporting young carers in schools: A step-by-step guide for school leaders, teachers and non-teaching staff’ – and they will have the opportunity to apply for a Young Carers Award for their work. They will also have access to expert regional networks, bringing together schools, young carer services and health and social care professionals to share expertise and access training.

Newham Council holds specific events for young carers during its Carers’ Week and at ‘fun days’. It has also produced a ‘Support for Carers’ leaflet, which clearly identifies who young carers are and how to contact its Children & Young People’s Service. Newham also has young carer champions across children’s and adult services.

Emma’s story

Emma and her sister’s involvement with children’s social care was linked particularly to their extremely poor attendance at school. Emma felt that her attendance dropped following a period of being bullied at school. She stopped then attending school altogether and was placed in alternative education. However, she did not always engage with this service and her attendance was sporadic.

Emma explained that she did not attend school because her mood was very low and she chose not to leave the house for weeks at a time. Professionals felt that often Emma and her sister would mirror their mother’s behaviour when she was depressed. Emma struggled with her body image and began to restrict her diet. She was referred to NHS Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS). However, she attended some sessions and then stopped going as she felt that they were unhelpful.