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Young carers and carers of children under 18

Young carers and carers of children under 18 have different assessments to adult carers of adults.

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The information in this section applies to people living in England. If you live in Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland, please click the relevant link below.

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Young carers are children under 18 with caring responsibilities. A parent carer is someone over 18 who provides care to a disabled child for whom they have parental responsibility. A non-parent carer of a disabled child is someone over 18 who provides care to a disabled child for whom they do not have parental responsibility (such as a grandparent).


Young carers

Young carers are children under 18 with caring responsibilities, and their rights to be assessed come mostly from the Children Act 1989 and the Children and Families Act 2014.

If there is an adult being looked after, then the local council has a duty to consider whether there are any children involved in providing care, and if so, what the impact is on that child.

The local council have a duty to assess ‘on the appearance of need’ (ie without a ‘request’ having to be made). They also have a more general duty to ‘take reasonable steps’ to identify young carers in their area.

The local council must involve the child with caring responsibilities, their parents and any other person the young carer requests in the assessment process. The assessment itself must look at whether or not the young carer wishes to continue caring, and whether it is appropriate for them to continue caring. When doing this they have to take into account any education, training, work or recreational activities the young carer is or wishes to participate in.

Where a young carer’s eligible needs are identified as requiring support, local councils will have to:

  • provide support directly to the young carer or
  • demonstrate that the ‘cared for person’s’ assessment has provided adequate care and support to prevent inappropriate care being required from the young carer
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Parent carers of disabled children

A parent carer is someone over 18 who provides care to a disabled child for whom they have parental responsibility.

The Children and Families Act 2014 amends the Children Act 1989 requiring local councils to assess parent carers on the appearance of need or where an assessment is requested by the parent. This is called a parent carers needs assessment. This assessment can be combined with one for the disabled child, and could be carried out by the same person at the same time.

The local council must also be satisfied that the child and their family come within the scope of the Children's Act, ie that the child is a child in need (see below).

The local council must then assess:

  • whether a parent carer has needs for support and what those needs are
  • whether it is appropriate for the parent to provide, or continue to provide, care for the disabled child, in the light of the parent's needs for support, other needs and wishes

Parent carers' needs assessment must also consider:

  • the wellbeing of the parent carer
  • the need to safeguard and promote the welfare of the child cared for, and any other child for whom the parent carer has parental responsibility

Wellbeing has the same meaning as applies to adult carers of adults, and you can read more about this in our assessments factsheet.

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Non parent carers of disabled children

A non-parent carer of a disabled child is someone over 18 who provides care to a disabled child for whom they do not have parental responsibility (such as a grandparent). Such carers do not have the same right to an assessment as parent carers.

The Government has said it will preserve the right to an assessments for this group of carers by not repealing the relevant parts of the Carers (Recognition and Services) Act 1995.

However this means that such carers will still have to request a carer's assessment and will have to show they are providing, or intend to provide, regular and substantial care.

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Disabled children

Assessments for disabled children will be carried out under the Children's Act 1989. Local councils have a duty to assess a 'child in need' under the age of 18 for any services that they or their family may need.

A 'child in need' is defined as one of the following:

  • a child who is unlikely to achieve or maintain, or to have the opportunity of achieving or maintaining, a reasonable standard of health or development without the provision of services by a local council
  • a child whose health or development is likely to be significantly impaired, or further impaired, without the provision of services
  • a child who is disabled

Note: The Children Act considers a child disabled if the child is blind, deaf, non-verbal, suffering from a mental disorder of any kind, substantially and permanently handicapped by illness, injury or congenital deformity or such other disability as may be prescribed.

The assessment considers all the help that your disabled child needs, the needs of any other children in the family and the help that you may need to care for the disabled child.

You can read more about Children Act assessments in our assessments factsheet. The charity Contact a Family also has useful factsheets on the rights of disabled children and their families.

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Transition to adulthood

When young carers and disabled children are approaching 18 there are different provisions in place.

Young carers become entitled to a Young Carer's assessment 'in transition'. Disabled children become entitled to a Child's Needs Assessments 'in transition'. Carers of disabled children (either with or without parental responsibility) become entitled to a Child's Carer's Assessment 'in transition'.

These assessments must be carried out by the local council where it considers that the young carer, disabled child or carer of a disabled child is likely to have care and support needs after the child becomes 18 and there is 'significant benefit' to the young carer, disabled child or adult carer if an assessment is carried out.

You can read more about transition assessments in our assessments factsheet.

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Charging for services received under the Children Act 1989

Local councils can charge for services provided under the Children Act 1989. Each local council will have their own charging policy for this. If your child is under 16, then it will be your financial situation as a parent that will be taken into consideration when working out whether there is a charge for the relevant service and if so, what this will amount to.

Your child's Disability Living Allowance should not be taken into consideration. The local council should not charge you more than you can reasonably afford.

If you get Income Support or income-related Employment and Support Allowance, Working Tax Credit, or Child Tax Credit (paid at a rate above the family element), then you should not be charged for Children Act services.

When a child reaches 16 years of age, they are assessed in their own right. This means it should be their ability to pay which is taken into account and not yours.

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