Know Your Rights

If you are a young carer you may feel that you don’t have any choices. You may feel that you have no option other than to provide care. However, you should be aware of some relevant laws. The two key points in these laws are that no child should have to provide care because there is no other choice, and no child should undertake inappropriate caring duties.

The various laws can seem complicated and therefore you may struggle to understand all your rights. If you would like some advice you can speak to the organisations listed in Chapter Nine – Getting Support.

The Responsibilities of Local Councils

Local councils are often referred to as local authorities, so that is what I will call them here. Local authorities are responsible for ensuring that people who need care receive that care, and also that carers are being properly supported. Therefore, you should never feel that you have to provide care, because actually it is the local authority’s responsibility. You can decide whether or not you want to be a young carer, and if so, what care you should provide. This decision should be based on the type of care that is needed and the impact that providing care has on you.

Laws Introduced in 2014

Two laws regarding young carers were introduced in 2014. These are called the Children and Families Act, 2014 and the Care Act, 2014. These laws contain some key points for young carers:

Children and Families Act 2014

This Act states that local authorities must take reasonable steps to identify young carers within their area. When they have been identified, the local authority must assess if the young carers need support, and if so, what those needs are. This can be done via something called a Young Carers Needs Assessment, which is explained later in this chapter.

Care Act 2014

The Care Act 2014 requires local authorities to adopt a whole family approach. This means that when someone is receiving care, the local authority must look at the impact on everyone else in the house, including children. This act specifically states that if a family has a young carer, the local authority must consider if the young carer needs support. The act also states young carers should not provide inappropriate levels of care, and gives examples of inappropriate tasks.

Inappropriate Tasks for Young Carers

The law states that young carers should not perform some tasks that are performed by adult carers. It also states that young carers should not spend too much time caring for someone else because this can affect how they do at school, and whether or not they are able to do similar activities to other children or young people.

The guidance that goes with the Care Act 2014 states that “a young carer becomes vulnerable when their caring role risks impacting upon their emotional or physical wellbeing, or their prospects in education and life. This might include:

  • Preventing the young carer from accessing education, for example, because the adult’s needs for care and support result in regular absence from school or impacts upon their learning.
  • Preventing the young carer from building relationships and friendships.
  • Impacting upon any other aspect of the young carer’s wellbeing.”

There are various caring tasks which are regarded as inappropriate for carers under 18 years of age. Some examples are below:

  • Personal care such as bathing and toileting.
  • Difficult physical tasks such as lifting.
  • Giving medication.
  • Managing family finances.
  • Offering emotional support to such a degree that the child is having to act like the parent.

There are also some caring tasks which are regarded as inappropriate for carers under 18 years of age. Inappropriate tasks include:

Local Authority Assessments

There are various assessments that local authorities perform to support young and adult carers. These assessments are not intended as checks on the care that the young or adult carer is providing, the assessments are to check what support carers need. Brief descriptions of these assessments are:

Young Carers Needs Assessment

A young carer’s needs assessment is specifically for a carer who is under 18 years of age. The aim of this assessment is to check what duties a young carer performs, how the young carer is coping and if support is needed. This assessment takes place if:

  • A young carer asks for an assessment.
  • A young carer’s parent asks for an assessment.
  • The local authority think the young carer has needs (the young carer or their parent does not have to ask).

If you are a young carer, the young carer’s needs assessment will assess several things. Firstly, it will assess if you actually want to be a young carer. If you do, the assessment will then look at the caring duties you perform and whether they are appropriate for a child. The assessment will also look at the impact that being a young carer has on your life, so it will look at things like the effect on your health, happiness, education, training, leisure opportunities and hopes for the future.

This assessment can take place with your parents and family present, or alternatively you can speak to a social worker in private. You have the right to ask for an adult to help present your opinions. This may be someone you know, such as a teacher or a family member. If you don’t have an adult who can support you, then you can ask a social worker for an advocate. These are totally independent people who will help you through the process.

The person performing the assessment will also speak to your parents, and anyone else you or your parents want to be involved. If both you and your parents agree, the local authority may assess your needs and the needs of the person that is cared for at the same time. The assessment is also an opportunity to find out if you are eligible for any financial help.

All the people who are involved with the assessment will receive a written record of it.  This will include whether the local authority thinks you need support and what will happen next. It will also explain what to do if you or your parents disagree with the assessment.

If your circumstances change, or the circumstances of other family members change, the local authority should carry out another assessment.

Transition Assessment

A transition assessment is different to a young carer’s assessment. A transition assessment is for a young carer who is approaching 18 years of age, after which they will be an adult.  There are different rights for young carers and adult carers, so the transition assessment looks at how the situation is changing and what the implications are for the young carer and the person being cared for.

The transition assessment will ask questions such as:

  • Do you want to continue providing care once you become an adult, or do you want to stop providing care?
  • If you do continue providing care, are you changing the tasks that you perform?
  • What do you want to achieve in life, and if you continue to be a carer, what support do you need to achieve your goals?

If this is relevant to you, after the assessment the local authority will give you and your parents a report which summarises everything that was talked about and their recommendations regarding what should happen next. This will include any support necessary for the person being cared for, and support for you if you continue as a carer.

Carer's Assessment

A carer’s assessment is available to anyone over the age of 18 who provides care for someone else. Therefore, if you have been a young carer, when you become 18 years of age you are entitled to have your situation reassessed. The assessment will consider how your caring role impacts on your education, employment and health. After the assessment, you will get a copy of the report that says what was discussed and whether any further support is recommended.