UNITED KINGDOM / AGILITYPR.NEWS / May 22, 2020 / Teenage carers are exploring their experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic in a unique research partnership with academics from the University of Essex.
Caroline Bald, a lecturer in the School of Health and Social Care was initially approached to explore the experiences of teenage young carers, in a collaborative project with the carers working as co-researchers.
The pilot project, Nothing about us without us, was due to launch in April.
Its remit was swiftly adapted, though, as the impact of the Coronavirus outbreak became apparent.
Caroline Bald said: “I was approached by a local charity interested in exploring what young carers felt about the services they were receiving. As discussions continued, Covid impacted this group significantly and we felt it a vital time to work with young carers to share their concerns.”
A young carer is a person under 18 helping to look after a family member with a disability, illness, mental health condition, or drug or alcohol problem.
In 2010, the BBC estimated there were 700,000 young carers in the UK, 1 in 12 of the children it surveyed. A 2018 study found that close to 7% of young people were identified as doing a high amount of caring activity, and 3% a very high amount.
The most common scenario is a young person caring for a mother or a sibling, with a physical disability.
The Nothing about us without us project asks, what is the unique experience of being a young carer during the Covid-19 pandemic and how has the pandemic impacted on this experience? It aims to also look at the likely impact on teenage carers as they progress into later life.
The pilot project, which will run until October 2020 initially, links into the newly formed All Party Parliamentary Group for Young Carers and Young Adult Carers. It hopes to raise awareness of young carers, and to support universities to better meet the needs of carer students.
Caroline is working with the young carers themselves, who are working as co-production co-researchers; with Kool Carers, based in Basildon, Essex; and with her colleagues Professor Peter Beresford and Kathryn Chard, a Postgraduate Research Student.
Nuffield Research Placements is assisting the project by providing the carers with research insights.
Caroline Bald said: “The current situation has, if anything, brought to the fore just how vital this work is. We have worked alongside the young carers themselves, which places a particular responsibility to honour their experience.
“Sadly, a young carer in the wider group took her own life during lockdown. We reflected long and hard as to whether this was ethically the right time to be exploring such challenging issues as mental health and hopes for the future. A colleague captured our conclusion by saying: it would be unethical not to.”