Young carers

Creating greater awareness about their needs, and introducing national legislation to support them

A young carer is someone under 18 who helps to look after a relative with a disability, illness, mental health condition, or drug or alcohol problem.

Prior to 2014, young carers in the UK were not recognised or supported in policy or practice despite the documented impacts of their responsibilities on their well-being, education and social activity.

Our research has created greater understanding of the needs and resilience of young carers and their families – and has been used to inform national legislation and guidance as well as services to support them.

Our impact

New UK legislation to better support young carers

  • Care Act 2014
  • Children and Families Act 2014

Identifying and supporting young carers

  • Our research informed the Government’s Carers Action Plan 2018-20
  • With RiPfa, we provided training for social work practitioners
  • We devised YC-QST-20 to help health, social care and education professionals in their work

Enhancing nationwide support

  • Our research inspired the launch of 250+ young carers projects in the UK

International influence

The research

Professor Aldridge has been working in this field for more than 25 years. Her research has improved the lives of thousands of young people and their families – and she is credited with establishing the concept of “young carers”.

Her national study – in partnership with TNS-BMRB (now, Kantar) – uncovered the high number of young carers nationwide, described their experiences and needs, the adverse effects of their responsibilities on them, and the difficulties they face in accessing the right support.

A further project explored the potential efficacy of a national Young Carers Recognition Scheme to improve young carers’ access to health and social care services as well as a range of discounts on essentials, including travel and food.

To enhance engagement when working with young people, Prof Aldridge has developed a novel model of participatory research that is creative and bottom up in its approach.

As well as conducting the research that underpins legislation and practical support for young carers, Professor Aldridge strives to raise public awareness. In 2019, she published Can I Tell You About Being A Young Carer? which raises awareness about young carers and the impact caring has on them.

Recognising her contribution to social policy and social care, in April 2015, Professor Aldridge was appointed as a Fellow of the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) and is also a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences.

In April 2020, with researchers from across the UK, Prof Aldridge launched the Caring through Coronavirus project to understand how carers are coping during the COVID-19 pandemic – and whether changes in policy, legislation, and health and social care provision are truly supporting them.

The research is invaluable to our work… We have noticed a change in young people’s confidence and their self-esteem. It’s really fantastic to see.

Catherine Bibb Young Persons Service Manager - Norfolk County Council

Research funders

  • Department for Education
  • Department of Health and Social Care
  • Research in Practice for Adults

Development partners

  • Kantar
  • Norfolk Carers Support Service
  • Norfolk County Council

Meet the experts

Photograph of Jo Aldridge

Professor Jo Aldridge

Professor of Social Policy and Criminology