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Should young carers exist? - Carers UK Forum

Should young carers exist?

Share information, support and advice on all aspects of caring.
Let us take the situation of a hearing teenager both of whose parents are Deaf sign language users, and who is therefore competant in sign language. There is a phone call - some important news.
There are some carers who are arguing that there should be no young carers, and in this case, would they wish the young carer not to pass on the message to his parents? I'm genuinely curious, what is the practical alternative that they would offer?
I remember a situation that was reported in the local newspaper where a 3 year old was to all intents and purposes a young carer.

Her mother was a "brittle" diabetic and collapsed while in the bath. The youngster had the good sense to pull the plug, fetch mum's sugary drink from the fridge and try to get it down her, and to call for an ambulance.

When discussing this at a training session for GP surgery staff, the reaction was 50:50 - with one half suggesting that the child should be taken into care because the mother should not be relying on her. There is a tendency to view the parents as unfit, somehow, to be parents, and unreasonable. Happens quite a lot actually.

Anyway, I asked them what workable alternative could health or social services offer? And the room went silent. Nobody could think of one - because there isn't always an answer. And in the ten years I've given that example as a discussion point, not one person (out of hundreds) have been able to come up with a workable solution. It's actually a good example to use with social work trainees because sometimes they need a reminder that you cannot solve every problem.
In an ideal world children should be cared for, not have to do the caring - but we don't live in an ideal world do we ?

No matter how much we wish it could be otherwise there will always be young Carers; but they need lots of support so that they can still be children and have a childhood. The only alternative for many would be to be taken into care (either the caree or the carer) and we all know that won't happen because of the cost.

Charles - in your example it would be wrong to assume that the Mother is unfit in anyway just because she has an illness - we'll be suggesting next that anyone with a disabling illness should not be allowed to have children in case the child ends up as their parent's carer.

And Rob - in your example I see no difference in taking a telephone message for deaf parents that has to be 'signed' and taking a message for hearing parents that is either written down or passed verbally.
No child should have to be a "carer" be it for their parents or siblings, but i have no complaints about children helping round the house all children should help in the home , but if they have a disabled parent or sibling social services / local authority should provide the care , and allow the child to have a life of his/her own ....
My 15 yr old helps with his younger brother in some duties a regular sibling would not be doing, he is himself disabled but I have to say it has actually had a very posistive effect on him, maybe just our situation because we are talking autism in both children but he has learnt empathy, responsibility and respect.
Having said that I am only talking "help" and not some kind of full caring role which I don't think is acceptable for any child.
Children should not have to be young Carers,but I don't know where we draw the line.My children had no choice, but it life is not that simple. Ben had a lot of behaviour problems when he was young, nothing major really, just related to the Downs. I remember several times, when my husband was working, and our younger son Rhys had a bad hypo (low blood sugar). I would tell Ben to go out to the kitchen to get me lucozade, milk, whatever I needed, and he always reacted appropriately to the situation.He never strayed from what I had asked him to do.
I remember another time, when the children were lined up in school to go into class, and Ben left his line, and walked over to Rhys and kicked him hard on the leg.The teacher went to tell Ben off, and Rhys asked her not to. He said "He can't help it Miss, and I love him, don't get cross".The teacher has a quiet word with Ben's classroom assistant instead.She didn't know what to do, and quite honestly,neither did I, when she told me, as my reaction would have been to tell Ben off.Katie was in a lesson in the comprehensive school, and a girl with Downs was in the lesson. The girl was playing to the audience, who were making fun of her. Katie was upset about it, and managed to distract the girl, and give her another task(should have been down to the teacher, but he ignores the whole situation).
These instances in school, have shown that my younger two children coped with difficult situations even away from the home situation.
Rhys always had the phone number of the ward I was working on, underneath his pillow when I went to work, in case my husband was ill. He never needed to use it. But even children who do not have a disabled parent would have an emergency contact number.
I do not know what the answer is.I believe my younger two children had a more difficult childhood because of the disabilities rather than their caring,but Katie won't accept that. She says that she would not have wanted her childhood any other way. I have mixed feelings, because I wonder if Rhys's depression was partly caused by the family situation .
When I had my children,my mother took a hands on role with us, out for picnics, parties, Christmas concerts,a phone call each evening to tell her of their day and blow a kiss goodnight,but she died when my youngest was five, and they missed a large part of extended family life (and ordinary non-caring childhood)after Mum died.
I hadn't thought of it before, but our kids were young Carers to their Mum, who often couldn't cope with doing day to day things. She would just have to stay in bed. The kids made her cups of tea and made their own food as I was at work all day.
It certainly hasn't done them any harm, as their all very independent people and all running their own business's.
It just depends on each individual case I think.

Should young Carer's exist?

Of course not!

But they do. There should be some form of assistance in place to aid the young who have to care. But there isn't. What's the answer? I don't know!

What i do know, though, is if i hadn't helped my mum look after my gran, and if i in turn hadn't helped look after my mum from the age of 12 and my dad for the last 11 years, then i would not be the person i am today. It used to be that family would come together and help when there was a problem, assisting in whatever way they could. Now it's all about self, or so it seems. I can only discuss it from a personal point of view, but if i hadn't had the experiences i've had i may of been a much more selfish person. One more prone to having a lack of compassion, a lack of respect for the older generation. A lack of wishing to help other people when you can. I may not of grown up with the understanding that i may be that way someday, and that i would wish to be treated with dignity and respect.

So while there is an exceedingly strong argument to be made about not having young Carer's, there is also a side of it which can bestow character traits on a person from a young age. Not bad ones at that, either.

As Pete said, it's a personal and individual thing. Each case would be different. Each case would have to be taken on it's own merits. One day, maybe, we will see a time when all young Carer's get a chance to have a 'normal' life. What is needed now, i think, is to somehow allow them to have the chance to make that decision for themselves. Many of them deal with serious conditions each day, many of them have had to make life or death choices at times. I know, in the past, i had to. I made them, because i was the one who was dealing with the situation.

Whatever help is forthcoming for them in the future, must take their views on board. It must be discussed with them, or at least with those old enough to state their opinion. For the others there ought to be something in place that will allow them to live like a normal child. It's finding that solution...that's the hard part. Whatever it is will involve cash...and we have all been down that road with the councils/health authorities/government!

Image bit longer than i intended, but struck a nerve with me, sorry

Image bit longer than i intended, but struck a nerve with me, sorry
Nothing to be sorry about - you've given us more insight into a really difficult and emotive issue.
The local authority should provide the care IF people want it. Not everybody wants that (loads of folk on here couldn't live with PAs or helpers and would prefer to do everything themselves) and that should be respected.
And why should the child be taken into care????? Of course she was taught what to do if her mum took ill. Isn't that the same as a parent telling their child to find a member of staff at the till if they lose each other inside a shop? The child must be taught what to do of course she must and I'm sure she still gets to be a little child. I don't really think this child should be called a carer, just because she knows what to do for her mum's health issues.
If the child was taken into care, what effect would that have on both of them, mentally and emotionally? Who says the child is unhappy anyway?
I knew from an early age, what to do if my epileptic suffering mum had a fit and fell down, but that didn't make me a carer for my mum - I was just taught what to do, should it happen.
Like Susie says, taking a message or passing a message onto someone ---- what's the problem?