MORE THAN eight out of ten young carers (82 per cent) feel lonely during the summer holidays, according to new research released by Action for Children and Carers Trust.

The survey of young carers aged 11-18 also reveals that because of the increase in their caring responsibilities, the vast majority (86 per cent) feel more stressed or worried during the summer holidays than during term-time. Nearly four in ten (39 per cent) feel that way for most of the summer break. And whilst 82 per cent feel lonely at least some of the time, nearly a third (32 per cent) feel lonely for most of the holidays.

It is therefore unsurprising that more than a third (35 per cent) of the young carers surveyed said they do not look forward to the summer break. While many of their peers are enjoying time off school, hundreds of thousands of young carers will be at home cooking, cleaning, and looking after loved ones. The research shows that more than a quarter (27 per cent) feel they will not be able to have a break from their caring responsibilities during the holidays. A higher percentage of girls (31 per cent) than boys (16 per cent) said they didn’t feel able to take a break from their caring role during the holidays.

The survey also revealed how the holidays pile even more pressure on young carers. It found that over a quarter (26 per cent) will spend more than 10 hours on a typical day over summer caring for family members – the equivalent of losing half of their holidays – compared to one in ten (12 per cent) caring for the same time in term time. Shockingly, nearly one in five (18 per cent) of those polled said they will be caring for more than 12 hours on a typical day during the summer holidays.

There are an estimated one million young carers across the UK looking after a family member with a disability, illness, or mental health problem – some as young as five years old. Typically, young carers help with practical tasks around the home such as cooking, housework and shopping; physical care, such as helping someone out of bed; and personal care, such as helping someone dress. And not only do these children care for their family members during the day, they are also effectively ‘on call’ overnight.

A separate survey by Carers Trust earlier this year showed that the intensity of young and young adult carers’ roles is increasing. More than half (56 per cent) say the time they spent caring is rising, and nearly half (47 per cent) now care for more people than they used to. The first ever parliamentary inquiry into how caring affects their life chances has just been launched by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Young Carers and Young Adult Carers, supported by Carers Trust.

Paul Carberry, chief executive at Action for Children, said: “The summer holidays should be a carefree time for children but they can be heart-breaking for young carers who are often isolated and stuck at home, while their friends are having fun or enjoying time away. For young carers, the school term is often their respite from caring duties but that can disappear in the summer.

“We see first-hand the awful, often life-long impact of loneliness, anxiety and stress on this hidden child workforce who dedicate their formative years to helping loved ones. They are desperate for a break from their responsibilities and to have a bit of fun in the holidays.

“Young carers are proud to look after family members, but the work they do deserves proper recognition and support. Young carer respite services can be a lifeline, but the support currently available just isn’t enough to reach all of them in the right way. Only around 20 per cent of young carers in England receive support from their local council. The government must ensure councils have sufficient funding so that all young carers have access to these essential services. Only then will these children begin to have the practical and emotional support they need for a safe and happy childhood.”

Kirsty McHugh, chief executive at Carers Trust, said: “While millions of children are heading off on fun-filled summer holidays, these alarming figures reveal young carers have a very different few weeks ahead. For many, going to school can be their only break from the stresses and strains of caring for loved ones, allowing them to just be children for a few hours. Their responsibilities only ramp up when term ends, often leaving them isolated and unsupported, with little time for seeing friends or getting a rest.

“Young carers are carrying all too adult responsibilities on their young shoulders but are often forgotten about by those in a position to help. It’s vital that young carer services are properly funded so they can provide breaks for children in the holidays and beyond. These figures also highlight the need for holiday activities like sports camps and summer schools to be young carer-friendly. The least children deserve is the chance of a proper summer break.”

* Read the Carers Trust report here.

* Source: Action for Children