Editorials

Who cares for young carers?

BMJ 1994; 308 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.308.6931.733 (Published 19 March 1994) Cite this as: BMJ 1994;308:733
  1. S Jenkins,
  2. C Wingate

    How much do we know of young carers - that is, children under 18 who provide primary care for sick, disabled, or elderly relatives in the home, usually their own parents?1 Meredith suggested that health professionals have failed to identify such children and have shown interest in them only when the possibility of psychological or physical disorders has been raised.2

    Small studies have suggested that there are at least 10 000 young carers in Britain.3,4 Recent research has, however, rejected the usefulness of such data, concentrating instead on the qualitative impact that caring may have on a child's health, psychosocial development, and opportunities.*RF 5-7*

    A substantial obstacle to addressing the needs and concerns of young carers has been a lack of awareness of their existence. Providers of services - whether health, education, or social services - have consistently failed to identify young carers. As one young carer said, “You can't picture a child picking up an adult, getting them on to the stair lift, taking them up, bathing them. If you can't picture it, it doesn't happen.”8

    Bilsborrow refers …

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