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Young carers


Young carers are children who help look after a member of the family who is sick, disabled or has mental health problems, or is misusing drugs or alcohol.

Their day to day responsibilities often include:

  • cooking
  • cleaning
  • shopping
  • providing nursing and personal care
  • giving emotional support.

With so many adult responsibilities, young carers often miss out on opportunities that other children have to play and learn. Many struggle educationally and are often bullied for being ‘different’. They can become isolated, with no relief from the pressures at home, and no chance to enjoy a normal childhood. They are often afraid to ask for help as they fear letting the family down or being taken into care.

Read a story about how Barnardo's helps young carers across the UK »

Young carer facts

  • The average age of a young carer is 12.
  • Young carers are children and young people under 18 who provide regular and on-going care and emotional support to a family member who is physically or mentally ill, disabled or misuses substances.
  • The 2001 census identified 175,000 young carers in the UK, with 13,000 caring for more than 50 hours per week. The 2011 census identified 178,000 young carers in England and Wales alone; an 83% increase in the number of young carers aged 5 to 7 years and a 55% increase in the number of children caring who are aged 8 to 9 years. When figures from the Northern Ireland and Scottish census are taken into account, the total number of young carers in the UK total at least 195,000.

Services working with young carers

Barnardo’s runs 20 services across the UK which work to support young carers and their families in a variety of ways:

  • Helping the family to find the support they need, and are entitled to, from local services, so that a child’s caring responsibilities can be reduced.
  • Supporting young carers to use local services such as sports clubs, support groups, and health centres.
  • Providing advice and emotional support through counselling and drop-in sessions
  • Liaising with schools so that teachers can better support their students
  • Providing opportunities for young carers to take a break from their caring responsibilities, spend time with other young carers and share experiences
  • Providing opportunities for young carers to learn more about their parent’s illness or disability


Hear from a project worker at Barnardo's Willow Project

Listen to our radio ad (mp3)
Hear how you can help young carers.

What is a young carer?

Tara's story
View the Tara's video

Adam's story
View Adam's video

Nadine's story
View Nadine's story

Peter's story
View Peter's story

Watch the Young Carers video from the Indigo project, a Barnardo's project based in Redbridge, London.

For more information and to see some of our projects working with young carers