THE number of young people in St Helens left to care for elderly or sick relatives has been revealed in a shocking new report.
Social services chiefs believe there are currently almost 2,500 children in the borough who are responsible for looking after a family member.
And they say council chiefs, schools and health officials must work together to ensure young carers continue to receive the support they need.
Councillor Linda Maloney, whose council scrutiny task group produced the report, said: “While it is difficult to prevent some young people from becoming young carers it is clear that the aspiration should be preventing children and young people from taking on caring responsibilities within a family.
“Where this is not possible we must support these young people so that their opportunities and life choices are not unduly limited by their role as a young carer.”
The report warns young carers are at increased risk of problems at school, social isolation, behavioural problems and associated injuries, such as back pain
Coun Maloney added: “Not all children who have ill or disabled parents or siblings take on caring roles or do so in ways that cause difficulties.
“Circumstances will vary. What is important is that agencies work closely with the family and young person so that reasonable steps can be taken to pre-empt likely problems and any emerging difficulties affecting well-being can be identified at an early stage.”
Coun Maloney’s report also estimates there are around 21,000 unpaid carers in St Helens. This amounts to 12 per cent of the population and is much higher than the national average.
They also praised the role of schools, highlighting Rectory Primary in Garswood where between 10 and 15 pupils are young carers. The school provides extra help and refers children in caring roles to other support services.
Coun Maloney added: “It is universally acknowledged that the majority of young carers are hidden therefore we are encouraging better identification of young carers in all settings.”
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