Half of young carers feel responsible for giving their family a good Christmas

By agency reporter
December 23, 2019

Nearly half (47 per cent) of young carers feel responsible for giving their family a good Christmas, according to a new survey released by leading charity Action for Children.

While other children and young people spend their time enjoying the Christmas festivities and a break from school, hundreds of thousands of young carers will be at home cooking, cleaning and looking after loved ones.

The UK-wide poll of young carers under 18 found one in five (21 per cent) is looking after a loved one for longer than most people spend at work, as they care for 11 hours or more a day over the Christmas break. This would mean these young carers spend the equivalent of 10 days out of their two-week holiday caring.

In addition, 44 per cent of young carers surveyed by the charity said they have missed out on Christmas social activities in the past due to their caring duties, and their isolation during the holidays leaves one in five young carers feeling stressed (20 per cent) or lonely (19 per cent).

Eleven-year-old Marissa Salter from St Ives in Cornwall cares for her mum, Suzanna, 51, who was left with serious spinal damage and arthritis following a car accident several years ago. Suzanna also suffers with a long-term lung disease, COPD, which causes severe shortness of breath.

Marissa’s older sister recently moved to the US, and Suzanna has a personal caring assistant from the NHS who visits for eight hours a week to help out while Marissa is at school with bigger jobs like stripping the beds. 

Marissa said: “I’m really looking forward to Christmas because I’m getting a bike but sometimes it’s hard because I’ll be upstairs playing and then Mum will ask me to do something, so I have to go and do that instead. I feel it is my duty to keep mum happy over Christmas by helping out because if I don’t, I know she will be in more pain and that upsets me.

“In the mornings I have to get her out of bed, help her put her socks on and make her coffee. I also do the washing up, help with cleaning and the laundry and cooking. And I walk down to the shops to do the shopping because Mum isn’t supposed to lift anything.

“I get upset sometimes because I go online and see all my friends are going to places that I want to go to, and they haven’t told me about it because they know I can’t go.”

Julie Bentley, chief executive at Action for Children, said: “While most children spend their Christmas holidays decorating the tree, unwrapping presents or having fun with friends, it’s desperately sad that so many young carers feel it falls on their shoulders to give their families a happy Christmas.

“This time of year can be incredibly tough for young carers who are often isolated and missing out and at home cooking or cleaning instead of enjoying the festivities.

“The services currently available just aren’t enough to support the number of young carers. The new government must introduce a National Childhood Strategy to help them have a safe and happy childhood. But until all vulnerable children get the support they need, we will be there for them. And that’s why we’re asking the public to get behind our Secret Santa campaign.” 

There are an estimated 800,000 children and young people across the UK caring for a family member with a disability, illness or mental health problem. Some are as young as five years old. Based on research by the Children’s Commissioner, it is estimated that only 20 per cent of young carers receive support from their local authority

This Christmas, Action for Children is asking the public to Become a Secret Santa to support children like these young carers by texting CHILD to 70607 to donate £10 or by visiting iamsanta.org.uk 

* Action for Children https://www.actionforchildren.org.uk/

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