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Exploring family health
Exploring family health

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4.2 Children as carers

The following information on young carers may surprise you. As you read this and work on the activity you will gain an understanding of children as carers in the UK. First, to gain a sense of what the experience can be like, read this poem written by a young carer:

A Star

Young Carers might be what we are

But I think we’re more like a star

We light the dark and twinkle brightly

Being happy and being sprightly

Then in the day we disappear

Being seen is what we fear

Acting normal, Coping well

Hiding all, please don’t tell

My mum and me we are the best

She does her bit I do the rest

We live our life and we get by

It can be tough we sometimes cry

It’s not always fair but we’ll always be there

Children that share and children that care

At the end of the day it’ll be night

We’ll come out again and we will shine bright

YES a star that’s what we are

(Source: Children’s Society Young Carers Initiative, 2005)

One of the most prominent researchers looking at the plight of young carers is Professor Saul Becker from the University of Nottingham. Becker defined young carers as:

children and young persons under 18 who provide or intend to provide care, assistance or support to another family member. They carry out, often on a regular basis, significant or substantial caring tasks and assume a level of responsibility that would usually be associated with an adult. The person receiving care is often a parent but can be a sibling, grandparent or other relative who is disabled, has some chronic illness, mental health problem or other condition connected with a need for care, support or supervision.

(Source: Becker, 2000, p. 378)

Becker’s collaborative study with the BBC in 2010 received much attention in the media when it revealed that the number of young carers in the UK was much higher than originally thought. Professor Becker said his findings revealed ‘a hidden army’ of young carers throughout the UK today (Howard, 2010). The Children’s Society has recently published an updated report, ‘Hidden from view: the experiences of young carers in England’ (2013) and in the following activity, you can read the report.

Activity 6: The hidden lives of young carers

Timing: Allow about one hour

This is a two-part activity. First, you will watch a video sequence about young carers and then you can read the latest report from the Children's Society.

The video has been produced by the NHS to raise awareness and assist understanding of the issues young carers face today. The Children’s Society’s report from 2013 will further develop your understanding of young carers. Follow both the links below to watch and then read about the types of caring activity these young people undertake


The collaborative research undertaken by Professor Becker and the BBC in 2010, concluded that there were likely to be as many as 700,000 young carers today in the UK. This suggests that many young carers are ‘hidden’ and not showing in the census figures. The 2013 report from The Children’s Society makes it clear that it is parents or adults who complete census forms and not children, making the reported census figure not truly representative of the number of young carers in society today.