2016 and 2017 were big years for Carers SA’s work for – and with young carers. Young carers certainly are the forgotten heroes, they are quiet achievers in our community.

It is long overdue that we as a community celebrate, honour their commitment to others, and acknowledge the special skills that young carers have developed due to their caring role and bestow the due respect that young carers deserve.

Carers SA estimates there to be 30,500 young carers under the age of 25 in South Australia, an average of two to three in every classroom. Many of these young carers are ‘hidden’ carers who have not disclosed their caring role to their peers, employers, or to staff at their school due to fear of experiencing negative responses (including bullying), or due to the often still negative perceptions (stigma) associated with disability, mental illness or ageing.

Everyone has a role to play in ensuring recognition and support for young carers. The support and strategic action by schools and other education providers is imperative for young carers and other students facing additional life stresses. This is because educators have extended contact with students allowing early insight into their needs for additional support; and teachers, through their committed work, shape community cohesion and embed citizenship and insights into young and developing minds.

A caring role has a significant effect on young carers’ social, educational, emotional and health needs, impacting their future life opportunities and aspirations.  Young carers often experience physical, emotional and mental health issues, lower levels of resilience, developmental impairment and a reduced sense of self-efficacy.

Young carers often experience disengagement and social isolation due to a lack of time and possibilities for leisure and social activities due to their added responsibilities.

Such circumstances impact greatly on young carers’ own development through childhood to young adults, it infringes on formulating life aspirations, education outcomes (see NAPLAN outcomes 2016) and future careers.

The Carers SA’s 2016 Young Carers in SA Assessment Project – “Young Carers – What Next?” shone a spotlight on the life circumstances of our young carers:
• 29% provide care for a family member with one or more mental health issue(s)
• 59% have to do caring tasks that upsets them
• 81% often feel stressed
• 38% think they do not matter
• 40% feel so sad they can hardly stand it
• 52% feel very lonely
• 1 in 5 feel that life does not seem worth living

In order to tackle these issues, Carers SA developed a consolidated young carer centric service model. Carers SA piloted this model in 2017 with funding support from the Department of Communities and Social Inclusion. A comprehensive report and resources are available to the carer support sector and the community via the Carers SA website.

We know that young carers require specific support which takes the interrelationship between developmental factors, caring role requirements and young carer wellbeing and resilience support seriously. Increasing the currently very limited and resource poor support services available for young carers to a meaningful level is one of Carers SA’s core concerns.

Carers SA has lobbied the South Australian Government and Minister Zoe Bettison, the Minister for Communities and Social Inclusion and Minister for Youth to bridge funding gaps for meaningful and sustainable, evidence based services and outcomes for young carers. Minister Bettison has demonstrated positive interest in young carers and is in-principle supportive of young carers. Specific funding or budget assignments for on-the-ground service for young carers are currently at below meaningful levels.

On behalf of young carers, Carers SA is formally requesting the State Government (and those standing for election in March 2018’s State Election) to support and fund appropriate, evidence based initiatives to support young carers (under 25 years old) to build aspirations, improve education outcomes and to make the transition from caring, or to combining employment or (tertiary) education with their caring role.

You can take an active part in our advocacy for young carers by contacting your local member of parliament and by selecting those candidates in the South Australian State Election 2018, who support carers and their families – and young carers in particular.
We encourage all young carers to speak up now and have their voices heard by telling politicians in their own words what they want and need as young carers via this downloadable template. Carers SA will forward these to the relevant decision makers and Members of Parliament early 2018.

‘March is coming’

Marianne Lewis, Carers SA, Senior Policy, Projects and Carer Engagement Officer