Carers in Somerset
In Somerset you are considered to be a carer if you give up your time without pay, to look after a family member, a friend, or a neighbour who is ill, frail or has a disability. You can be a parent carer, a young carer, or care for an older person or other adult with care needs.
Estimating the number of people who provide unpaid care to friends, family members or others is notoriously difficult. The 2011 Census is currently the most reliable means of quantifying carers. It asked the question:
Do you look after, or give any help or support to family members, friends, neighbours or others because of either:-
- long-term physical or mental ill-health / disability
- problems related to old age
58,300 people in Somerset said they did provide such unpaid care, 11% (one in nine) of the population. This represents an increase of about 8,000 in the past decade. However, even this substantial total is thought to be an under-estimate. Anecdotally, we know that not every carer would consider the support they give to fall under this definition; it's just 'what families do'.
Other Key Facts for Somerset
- About 43,000 of the unpaid carers in Somerset identified in the 2011 Census were under the age of 65, many more than the 3,640 people of working age claiming Carer's Allowance (DWP, November 2012). Even this is considered to under-estimate the true number of those providing unpaid care.
- Around 3,300 of the unpaid carers identified in the Census were younger than 25. More than a thousand are estimated to be children under the age of 16.
- More than one in five people aged 55-64 provide unpaid care.
- 58% of unpaid carers are women, in line with the national average.
- Almost one in four 50-64 year-old women (13,500) are unpaid carers
- About 12,300 people provide at least 50 hours of unpaid care a week.
- Of these, more than 5,300 are aged 65 or older and an estimated 1,600 are 85 or older.
- Around 3,500 of unpaid carers are themselves in bad or very bad health, and almost half of them (1,500) provide at least 50 hours of care a week.
- The number of people in Somerset receiving Carers Allowance has risen steadily in the last five years from 3,800 in November 2010 to 5,110 in November 2015. The 34% increase is broadly in line with the national trend (DWP)
- Of these more than one in three (1,930) had been receiving payment for at least five years.
- The largest increase since 2010 is amongst those under the age of 35 (up 61%, see chart below)
Trends in Carers Allowance recipients in Somerset by age group
Source: Department of Work and Pensions (DWP)
Support available for carers
In Somerset, Compass Carers provide a carers support service that is available to all unpaid carers, whether you care for a few hours or a substantial amount. This service does not replace assessed care and support provided by the local authority.
The term ‘Young Carer’ refers to children and young people under 18 who provide regular and ongoing care and emotional support to a family member who is physically or mentally ill, has a disability or misuses substances. The term does not apply to everyday and occasional help around the home.
According to the 2011 Census, In South West England, the number of young unpaid carers (aged 5 to 17) has increased by more than a third since 2001. If Somerset is typical of the region there are an estimated 1,750 such carers in the county.
Currently, children aged 8 and over are eligible to receive support specific to young carers, although it is recognised that in some cases, much younger children have caring responsibilities at home. It is a statutory requirement that each young carer should be offered an assessment of need.
It is clear that schools play an important part in the health and well-being of young carers. There is a need to ensure that young carers receive understanding and support in order for them to achieve and learn at school.
Young carers might experience the following: greater feelings of responsibility; physical tiredness due lifting or helping their relative or doing lots of housework; needing to feed and care for siblings/other family members; worries about their parent or sibling’s health and future wellbeing; having to give medication or helping with personal care; having to communicate with services or the authorities on behalf of the parent; coping with a parent’s or sibling’s changes in mood, unpredictability or difficulties in parenting; not having time for schoolwork or relaxation; feelings of embarrassment or shame at having a relative with health problems.
The Somerset Children and Young People's Survey in 2014 also revealed that young carers in Year 10 (aged 14-15) were more likely than the average pupil in that age group to have experienced bullying.
A Young Carers consultation carried out by Somerset County Council in 2012 yielded the following key results:-
- Young Carer groups are highly valued by young carers in the county and give them ‘something to look forward to’ and the chance to ‘be kids’.
- Many young carers said if they didn’t access Somerset Young Carers service, they would feel like they were alone. Young carers report feeling stressed, anxious and worried, with their parents reporting that their children are socially isolated because of their role as a carer. Having someone to talk to is very important to young people.
- Many young carers experience difficulties in school, and often need additional time to complete work because of their responsibilities at home.
- 81% felt that schools could play a more active role in identifying and supporting young carers, although a large number do not wish school staff and friends to know about their home situation also.
- School is a sanctuary for many children; a place where they can get away from some of the anxieties they face at home.
- A large number of young carers reported having experienced bullying because of their family circumstances, with young carers stating that other people don’t understand what they are going through. With awareness raising, it must be handled sensitively so they don’t feel singled out or embarrassed by the attention.
- Young people value consistency of support from staff and do not wish to explain their situation over and over to a number of different workers.
The Somerset Young Carers Project offers a number of groups where Young Carers can meet, socialise, be supported and have fun with other young carers. Details of venues and meeting times are included, with other information, on the project's website, specially created for children everywhere to give support and help or just a break from being a hard working, young person, in a hard situation.
The issue of young carers is further explored, including more facts and figures, in a report published by The Children's Society in May 2013, entitled 'Hidden From View'.
An online community, aimed specifically for young carers nationally, has been launched by the Carers Trust. It's called Babble and is available at https://babble.carers.org.