Young carers in Glasgow - research and strategy

08 August 2017

In this blog, Becky discusses how some of the key findings from recent GCPH research into young carers can help support the Young Carer Strategy currently being implemented by Glasgow City Carers’ Partnership.

The research, Young carers in Glasgow: health, wellbeing, and future expectation, showed that:

  • there are a significant number of unidentified carers- “If the proportion of carers found in this survey existed across all secondary schools in Glasgow, then there could be around 3,000 young carers in the city... in Glasgow city, only 300 young carers were identified by dedicated young carer services in the 2015-2016 financial year”
  • a link with long term conditions - “Over half of the young carers cared for someone with a disability, one-third for someone with a long-term condition, almost a quarter for someone with a mental health problem, and around 1-in-10 for someone with a drug or alcohol problem”
  • young carers have poorer outcomes – “Evidence shows that young carers tend to have poorer outcomes in terms of health, education, and employment”.

These findings will certainly inform strategic planning within Glasgow City Council and within it, Glasgow City Carer Partnership’s Young Carer Service. The strategy aims to: identify and support young carers; provide anticipatory support to young carers and their families: where possible, improve the outcomes for young carers in Glasgow by alleviating the caring role.

Looking in the right places

So often we hear the term ‘hidden carers’, and the many reasons they remain hidden: “stigma, fears of unwanted intervention and forced separation, as well as not identifying the role of ‘carer’”, as stated in the report..

This raises the question, are these young carers really hidden, or do we simply not know how to find them?

Many professionals and organisations attempt to identify young carers. However, these children with caring roles are often labelled as a ‘young carer’ as part of the support process. This doesn’t necessarily solve the issue of stigma, where young people with caring roles can be reluctant to identify themselves as carers. Perhaps this goes some way to explain the difference between young carers currently being supported by dedicated young carer services and those self-identifying in the school survey. While professionals need the term ‘young carer’ to comply with legislation, policies and funding criteria, children clearly aren’t identifying with this terminology and the research should encourage services to review our approach to identifying children with a caring role.

Identifying and supporting young people with a caring role

The majority of efforts in Glasgow to identify children with a caring role focus on Education Services. There has been an emphasis nationally on ensuring that schools are ‘young carer aware’ and a place where young carers can receive support and information. Schools need to be a supportive place for young people with a caring role, but schools aren’t necessarily the place to identify young carers at the beginning of their caring role.

The confirmed link between young carers and long-term conditions gives us a clear indicator as to where we will find children with a caring role. When an adult is diagnosed with a long-term condition with care needs, there is an increased likelihood that their child may now, or in the future undertake a caring role. Therefore, it would be logical to conclude that if we want to identify and provide anticipatory support for children with a caring role we should focus our attention at point of diagnosis for patients with mental health, addictions, disability, and so on.

If the potential for a caring role to develop is identified early enough, then support and information can be provided to the whole family. Glasgow City Carers Partnership are currently providing a family-based approach to supporting children identified with a caring role. By looking at the whole family and the different roles and needs within it, it is often possible to prevent children providing inappropriate caring roles. If all agencies, organisations and professionals in Glasgow that are dealing with families were young carer aware, then this would improve our capacity to support children with a caring role and improve their wellbeing outcomes.

In situations where it is not possible to remove or alleviate the caring role, the new Young Carers Statement as introduced in the Carers (Scotland) 2016 Act is a welcomed assessment tool. The legislation ensures that children with a caring role and their families can be offered personalised support.

There are many lessons to be learned from the GCPH research. There are significant opportunities to make Glasgow a better place for children with a caring role to grow up in, but to achieve this we must all work together and commit to applying these lessons in practice.

Access the research report.

Read an article by one of the report's authors Oonagh Robison in The Conversation.


About the author

Rebecca Rawlinson Young Carer Education Worker


Becky Rawlinson is a recently appointed Young Carer Information Strategy Worker within Glasgow City Carer Partnership. Her role involves raising awareness of young people with a caring role within schools. 

Read all articles by Rebecca Rawlinson