Charity survey finds half of young carers feel isolated and overworked at Christmas

Half of young carers feel responsibility for giving their relatives a good Christmas, research by a children’s welfare charity has found.

A survey of 347 carers under the age of 18 by Action for Children found one in five felt stressed or lonely around Christmas and nearly half missed out on Christmas social events.

The UK-wide poll found 21% spent an average of 11 hours a day providing care – significantly longer than the eight-and-a-half-hour working day for adults.

There are an estimated 800,000 children and teenagers caring for a family member with a disability, illness or mental health problem in Britain – some as young as five years old.

One young carer, 11-year-old Marissa Salter from St Ives, Cornwall, looks after her mother, Suzanna, who suffered serious spinal damage and arthritis following a car accident a few years ago.

She also suffers from a long-term lung disease that leaves her short of breath.

Marissa said: “I feel it is my duty to keep mum happy over Christmas by helping out because if I don’t, I know she will be in more pain and that upsets me.”

Her list of chores includes helping her mother out of bed and to dress, washing up, cleaning, laundry, cooking and doing the shopping.

“I get upset sometimes because I go online and see all my friends are going to places that I want to go to, and they haven’t told me about it because they know I can’t go,” Marissa said.

Julie Bentley, chief executive at Action for Children, said: “It’s desperately sad that so many young carers feel it falls on their shoulders to give their families a happy Christmas.

“This time of year can be incredibly tough for young carers who are often isolated and missing out and at home cooking or cleaning instead of enjoying the festivities.”

Ms Bentley called on the new government to introduce a strategy to support young carers.

Action for Children is running a “Secret Santa” campaign over the Christmas period where members of the public can donate £10 (by texting CHILD to 70607) to fund day trips, residential breaks and access to mental health services for young carers.

Copyright (c) PA Media Ltd. 2019, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Action For Children.