Carers Australia President Dr Tim Moore highlighted the importance of not only celebrating young carers during National Youth Week, but also shining a light on some of the challenges and issues they face.
Speaking at the Southbank Institute of Technology in Brisbane, Dr Moore said, "It is important that we recognise and celebrate young carers for who they are and what they do. However, young carers are also young people who miss out on a whole range of things.
“Caring can be incredibly tough, and I think sometimes we get too caught up on seeing young carers as heroes, rather than seeing them as people who need support.”
There are well over 300,000 young carers in Australia who help care in families where members are frail aged or who have an illness, a disability, mental illness, or an alcohol or other drug problem.
Levels of participation and attainment in education are generally lower among young carers when compared to other Australians[i], with young carers aged 19-24 less likely to have completed Year 12 or an equivalent compared with non-carers of the same age.[ii]
“Often young carers are very proud of what they do, however, caring can affect a young person’s social life, education and job prospects when families are not adequately supported,” said Dr Moore.
Young carer, Candice Riley, a student at the University of the Sunshine Coast, also spoke at the event.
“It’s only been this year that I’ve been able to say, ‘Hey, this is my role’ and that I’ve had the strength to say it,” said Ms Riley.
“It’s been something that I’ve never wanted to say to someone - they just wouldn’t understand, so why bother saying anything? Now I can say, ‘This is my situation’.”
Dr Moore said, “Young carers need support and flexibility so that they can achieve their educational goals and enjoy the same opportunities afforded to other young Australians.
“Young carers also need support to lessen the caring load. We need to ensure that people needing care are adequately assisted by the disability, mental health, aged care and health care systems so that young carers are not left to care alone.”
[i] Young carers in receipt of Carer Payment and Carer Allowance 2001 to 2006: characteristics, experiences and post-care outcomes – J Rob Bray, Australian National University (2013)
[ii] Australian Bureau of Statistics (2008)