Last week, I spoke in a debate on young carers in Westminster Hall. Young carers are defined as a person under 18 years, which helps to take a family or a friend who is in need of support as part of their daily lives- often because they are sick, disabled, or have been victims of abuse.
It is estimated that fewer than 700 000 children and young people across the UK providing care, some of them as young as five. They provide vital support to their families who need help, but too often these activities extract a heavy personal assessment on them. Many young carers struggling to reconcile their responsibilities with their own lives, and therefore many do not participate fully succeed in school, and do not benefit from opportunities as other children their age are generally under their childhood.
This can negatively affect the health of caregivers and their academic perspectives and self-confidence. Indeed, surveys of young carers Only 1 reveal 20 young carers have missed school because of their assistance role, and 26% have been bullied at school. What is even more disturbing that these problems often go unnoticed and untreated- 39% of respondents said that no one in their school was aware of their assistance role.
There are a number of systems currently in place to support young carers. I am proud to say that Sandwell was a pioneer in this field. Ours was one of the first tips published research identifying young carers in our local community. We now have an excellent charity, Sandwell young carers, which supports the development of children in this position, organizing homework clubs, and work with other organizations in Sandwell to put on leisure activities for young people caregivers. These efforts are essential to ensure that these children enjoy the same experiences and opportunities for their contemporaries.
Since I came to Parliament there almost twenty years, I had the privilege of working closely with Sandwell young carers and reflect the enormous work they do in our community. But I am also very aware that they face a number of systemic problems that prevent them to reach as many young carers as possible and give them the help they need. Among these are the challenges they face to identify children who need their support. young carers Sandwell are brought into contact with young carers through referrals from general practitioners, but for this to be effective, the Ministry of health and social care should play a more proactive role to ensure that GPs are fully aware of their responsibilities to recognize and record the young carers in their practice.
Another area where more is about to supply transport- if adults in their homes are sick or disabled, mobility of young carers will be significantly limited. This can make it difficult for them to go to school and other essential appointments and social events and extracurricular activities. It can also seriously undermine the efforts of charities to support young carers after all, there are few groups such as young carers Sandwell organizing events to support these children if they have no means of transportation to get there.
Finally, there was a trend regarding recent years that saw young Carer support services increasingly out of the hands of community groups such as young carers Sandwell. performance limited investments charities and foundations, the call for tenders for contracts for public services and the development of a competitive much larger market, have all meant that these groups have more to compete with larger agencies, which are usually short-term contracts and from outside the region. These companies may be able to generate substantial profits, but they do not have the knowledge that has been built within a community for many decades and this expertise is essential to address the problems that young carers are face. The government needs to recognize the immense value that organizations like Sandwell young carers make to their communities and take action to ensure that the tendering process leaves no CARER youth services in the hands of profit companies that offer less support.
I firmly believe that no child should have to choose between their own aspirations and support their families. If we take steps to solve these problems, we can take a big step towards this Sandwell young carers and others like them are able to reach the greatest number of children, and provide them with the support they need to manage the immense responsibility that has been placed on their shoulders, while leading a good life and fulfilling their own.