Young carers: who are they and why do they need support?

Tuesday 03 October 2023
Siblings embracing

Young carers take on a lot of adult responsibilities. In this blog post, we look at what it means to be a young carer, how the impact can shape a childhood and what you can do to help.

What is a young carer?

A young carer is someone 18 years old or under who helps look after a relative with a disability, illness, mental health condition, or drug or alcohol problem.

Some children begin giving care from a very young age, and others become carers overnight.

How many young carers are there in the UK?

Two happy teenage girls sitting on a bench and smiling at each other

What do young carers do?

The responsibility of a young carer is wide and varied. It can include:

  • Practical tasks, such as cooking, housework and shopping.
  • Physical care, like helping someone out of bed.
  • Emotional support, including talking to someone who is distressed.
  • Personal care, such as helping someone dress.
  • Managing the family budget and collecting prescriptions.
  • Helping to give medicine.
  • Helping someone communicate.
  • Looking after brothers and sisters.

What impact does being a young carer have?

Caring for someone can be very isolating, worrying and stressful. For young carers, this can negatively impact their experience in education. Over a quarter of young carers aged 11-15 regularly miss school. This can have a lasting effect on their life chances.

One in three young carers said that their caring role makes them feel stressed. Research also shows that 23% of young carers in the UK said that their caring role had stopped them making friends.

Another problem for young carers is recognising themselves as young carers. It’s usually only when they reach secondary school that they realise their home life is different from their friends'.

More recently, new research by Action for Children and Carers Trust found that eight out of ten young carers feel lonely during summer holidays. The research also highlighted that over a third of young carers do not look forward to summer.

Teenager with carer smiling

What support does Action for Children provide young carers?

At Action for Children we do our best to support young carers. We want to make sure they have happy and safe childhoods.

We help nearly 3,700 children and young people who are young carers across the UK, giving them advice and respite through short breaks, activities and the chance to connect with other young people like them.

We offer practical and emotional support to ensure they are able to enjoy their childhood.

We understand being a young carer can be very hard. That's why we're here to make things a little easier. We provide them with a chance to learn and have fun, helping them balance their caring responsibilities with being a child.


Sidekick is an anonymous and confidential text service for young carers. It offers a chance for young carers to talk, have their questions answered or chat about worries and concerns. Young carers can text the service at any time and the team will find the answer and send a reply within 24 hours.

With many hidden young carers across the UK, Sidekick is how Action for Children is bridging the gap. The service is open to young carers across the UK – providing support beyond our existing services.

Text 07888 868 059 or visit online at

The work young carers do deserve 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.

Young boy smiling and holding basketball in park
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