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Last Updated: Wednesday, 1 September, 2004, 00:39 GMT 01:39 UK
Young carers 'ignored' by census
Young carers
Census figures do not show the true picture, says the trust
More than a million children in the UK are caring for family members with health problems, new figures show.

The study commissioned by The Princess Royal Trust for Carers found a higher proportion of young people were acting as carers than reported by the census.

The trust said the figures should be a "wake-up call" for local authorities that "ignore" young carers' needs.

Carers often take on much more than the household tasks undertaken by many other youngsters, said the trust.

Responsibilities can range from the personal care of a physically disabled adult to making sure a brother or sister who has a learning disability plays safely, said young carers development co-ordinator for the trust, Alex Fox.

We believe that only a tiny percentage of young carers are getting the help they need
Alex Fox

Many young people will stay at home to be there for a parent who misuses substances or has a mental illness, he added.

Researchers questioned more than 1,300 young people and found 12% of those aged between seven and 19 were looking after someone - the equivalent of 1.1m children on a national scale.

The 2001 census found just 225,000 carers in the same age bracket.

Mr Fox said their survey meant children were asked directly about their situation for the first time.

The census was filled in by parents, who may not admit their child is looking after them or taking on a caring role for a brother or sister, he said.

Celebrity carers

"We believe that only a tiny percentage of young carers are getting the help they need," he said.

They have called for further research to be commissioned to address the problem.

The study was timed to coincide with a new website developed by the trust for young carers.

YC Net provides information and advice for young carers and professionals, such as teachers.

A spokeswoman for the trust said it also provided youngsters, who can face bullying, miss school and find it hard to talk about their lives, with a safe place to meet others in the same position online.

Among famous names who have been young carers are pop star Ms Dynamite, who looked after her siblings when her mother was ill, and TV designer Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen, who became a carer for his mother when she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

Warning on the burden of caring
14 Jun 04  |  Scotland
Young and old 'face care burden'
13 Dec 03  |  Health
The trials of a student carer
15 Mar 03  |  Education

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