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Historic change in law signals new era for young carers

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Loughborough Professor Jo Aldridge is part of a lobbying group whose efforts have led to a change of law for the benefit of the 160,000 young carers in England.

A landmark change in the law, announced by the government today (8 October 2013), signals the start of a new era of support for children in England caring for their parents, siblings and family members.

For too long, young carers have been slipping through the net between children’s and adult’s support services – hidden from view of the very authorities there to help them, according to the National Young Carers Coalition (NYCC) of leading charities, of which Professor Aldridge is a member.

Today, the Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove MP, has announced this historic amendment to The Children and Families Bill.

Now, when a child is identified as a young carer, the needs of everyone in the family will be considered. This will trigger both children’s and adults support services into action – assessing why a child is caring, what needs to change and what would help the family to prevent children from taking on this responsibility in the first place.

A staggering 166,363 children in England are caring for their parents, siblings and family members according to Census data released in May 2013. This is up by a fifth from when the last Census was conducted in 2001.

Based within Loughborough University’s pioneering Young Carers Research Group, Professor Aldridge has been a leader of research into young carers for the last 20 years. The work of her group, combined with that of other charity organisations, has provided a strong evidence base for the legislative changes made today.

Professor Aldridge said:

“It is fantastic news that young carers will be recognised in their own right through this amendment. Our research has shown the need for young carers to be assessed independently of their parents, and it’s so gratifying to see this reflected in appropriate legislation. This is a perfect example of evidence-based policy.”

Dr Moira Fraser, Chair of the NYCC and Director of Policy and Research at Carers Trust, said: “The National Young Carers Coalition (NYCC), has been campaigning for over a year for the government to change the law for young carers so that they have stronger rights to assessment and support and protection from inappropriate caring through assessment and support of the whole family.

“We are delighted that the Secretary of State has put forward this proposed amendment and indicated that the Care Bill will also protect young carers. Not only will these changes help professionals to understand what they need to do, they have potential to transform the lives of some our most vulnerable children and young people by helping them and their family when they most need it.”

The National Young Carers Coalition (NYCC) a partnership of charities and organisations led by Carers Trust, The Children’s Society and Barnardos, has been lobbying for this vital change in law since 2012, gaining cross-party support from politicians and professionals alike.