Suffolk: More than 4,500 young carers is ‘just the tip of the iceberg’ say Suffolk Family Carers

Kirsten Alderson, young people's service manager at Suffolk Family Carers

Kirsten Alderson, young people's service manager at Suffolk Family Carers - Credit: Archant

More than 4,500 young people in Suffolk are providing unpaid care for family members according to Census records but experts warn that figure is “just the tip of the iceberg”.

Children as young as five are helping a sick or disabled relative as Suffolk Family Carers predicts thousands more children are fulfilling the role of carer.

Statistics compiled from the Census indicate 4,612 people 24 and younger are caring for a relative with 1,035 of those living in Ipswich.

In the town alone, 145 youngsters, identified themselves as caring for a relative for more than 50 hours a week the 2011 Census data reveals.

Kirsten Alderson, young people’s service manager at the charity, said: “Identifying young carers is a massive problem, it is not something people want to say about themselves and parents can be reluctant to identify their children as carers.

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“I fear this may only be half the picture, the tip of the iceberg.

“There will be thousands more young carers than these figures represent – people think all they are doing is caring for a loved one but being a carer is when you have to do it because somebody else can’t.”

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The charity provides support for young people, with one-to-one sessions, group workshops and respite days to give youngsters a break.

Ms Alderson added: “Many young carers miss out on their childhood, they can suffer social isolation from their peers and are forced to grow up.

“In families often the eldest child will take on caring for their parent but also their siblings, sorting their meals, dropping them off at school.

“That can lead to them getting in trouble for being late, especially if they haven’t told their school they are a carer.”

Ms Alderson said the charity are keen to develop services to support young carers through education.

“It is a well known fact that young carers don’t do as well at school,” she added. “They can often get in trouble because teachers aren’t aware.

“And they are much more likely to end up not in education or employment later, it is a massive problem.

“School is a really important place where young carers could be identified which is why it is a key area for us.”

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