In a Parliamentary debate last week, Wera Hobhouse called for greater support for the nation’s hundreds of thousands of young carers. She praised Bath Philharmonia’s exemplary music-making programme which has supported over 1,000 young carers.
Wera Hobhouse said:
“The 2011 census identified nearly 200,000 young carers in England and Wales; one in eight were under eight years old. Recent research suggests the figure is actually much higher; as many as one in five schoolchildren are young carers.
“A Carers Trust survey found that 58% of young carers spend an average of 10 hours a week on their caring responsibilities. Young carers carry with them a great deal of worry—worry that can often make those they care for feel guilty.
“Being a young carer often limits life chances. The Children’s Society found that young carers were likely to have significantly lower educational attainment at GCSE level. Some 73% report having to take time off school. Carers aged 16 to 18 are twice as likely not to be in education, employment or training, and 45% of carers report mental health problems. Like every child, young carers deserve an equal chance in life. They do a remarkable job, but they need more support.
“One of the most exciting young carers’ programmes in this country is in my constituency. Bath Philharmonia is the only UK orchestra delivering a music-making programme for young carers. It has reached more than 1,000 young carers, supporting them to play, create and perform their own original music.
“The programme gives young carers a safe space to express themselves, make friends and build their self-esteem. One young carer said: ‘Bath Phil has taught me how to take part in something with a team. It has shown me how to be confident in myself, even if it’s just for a moment. It has given me something to look towards, which has helped me through some really tough times.’
“This positive environment reduces isolation and raises aspiration. Gaining skills in not only music but communication, teamwork and confidence helps many of these young carers find a way forward when they and their families are struggling. Jason Thornton, Bath Phil’s music director, captured the power of the programmes that support young carers when he said: “We’ve got children being children. And that’s wonderful.”
Wera Hobhouse concluded:
“The Government must bring forward plans to reform social care, so that we have a well-funded sustainable system that can deliver consistent high-quality care. My colleague Sir Ed Davey MP has called for an immediate £1,000 per year increase to the carer’s allowance. I urge the Government to extend the eligibility criteria to those in full-time education, as well as working to increase social awareness of the challenges faced by carers.”
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