More than eight out of ten young carers feel lonely during summer holidays

Tuesday 18 July 2023
Happy young boy in a wheelchair posing with his sister

  • New research also finds that over a third do not look forward to the summer break
  • The vast majority feel more stressed or worried than during term-time
  • More than a quarter will spend over 10 hours every day caring for loved ones – equivalent to losing half their holiday
  • Action for Children and Carers Trust are calling for better recognition of the work young carers do and proper funding for support services

More than eight out of ten young carers (82%) feel lonely during the summer holidays, according to new research¹ released today 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%) feel more stressed or worried during the summer holidays than during term-time. Nearly four in ten (39%) feel that way for most of the summer break. And whilst 82% feel lonely at least some of the time, nearly a third (32%) feel lonely for most of the holidays.

It is therefore unsurprising that more than a third (35%) of the young carers surveyed said they don’t look forward to the summer break – which should be one of the happiest times of the year for young people.

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%) feel they will not be able to have a break from their caring responsibilities during the holidays. A higher percentage of girls (31%) than boys (16%) 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%) will spend more than 10 hours on a typical day over summer caring for family members – the equivalent of losing half of their holidays2 - compared to one in ten (12%) caring for the same time in term time. Shockingly, nearly one in five (18%) 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 UK3 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%) say the time they spent caring is rising, and nearly half (47%) 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 council4. 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.’



Huw Beale, Senior Media Officer, Action for Children - 07718 114 038 / [email protected] (out of hours – 07806 806 282)


Mark Chandler, Media & PR Officer, Carers Trust 07712 427 808 / [email protected] (out of hours 07762 781 295)


1 Action for Children and Carers Trust polled 275 young carers from their services and other young carer organisations and services in June and July 2023 via a Microsoft Forms online survey and hard copy print-outs which were uploaded onto the platform. The sample size of 275 is snapshot survey of young carers as they can be hard to reach because of their caring duties.

² 10 hours a day x 7 days a week x 6 weeks holiday = 420 hours / 168 hours in a week = 2.5 weeks. However, there were 55 young carers who answered ‘11-12 hours’ a day (7) and ‘more than 12 hours’ (48) hence our estimate of around 3 weeks of their summer holidays lost to caring.

3 A BBC and University of Nottingham study in 2018 showed there were around 800,000 young carers aged 11 to 16 in England alone. Accounting for those aged 17 or under 11 and the number in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, Carers Trust estimates the UK number to be more than one million.

4 The Children’s Commissioner - (2016)

  • Action for Children protects and supports vulnerable children and young people by providing practical and emotional care and support, ensuring their voices are heard and campaigning to bring lasting improvements to their lives. With 447 services across the UK, in schools and online, in 2021/22 we helped 671,275 children, young people and families.
  • Carers Trust is the UK charity working to transform the lives of unpaid carers across the UK. It partners with its network of local carer organisations to provide funding and support, deliver innovative and evidence-based programmes and raise awareness & influence policy.​ Carers Trust’s vision is that unpaid carers are heard and valued, with access to support, advice and resources to enable them to live fulfilled lives. It hosts the Young Carers Alliance, a network of over 150 organisations and 300 individuals committed to improving identification and support for young carers and young adult carers. Carers Trust also hosts the Scottish Young Carers Services Alliance, an informal network of young carers services across Scotland. It has 51 members who provide support to young carers.