27 June 2019
A new review suggests the number of Young Carers in Australia may be up to three times higher than previously estimated.
According to the most recent ABS census, there are over 7.5 million young people between the ages of four and 25 in Australia. One in 10 of these youths provide informal care according to the Department of Social Services (DSS, 2002).
That puts the number of Young Carers in Australia up to at least 750,000.
This is almost three times higher than the 272,000 Australian Young Carers found by the Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers (SDAC) in 2015.
In the same DSS report, they concede their data “is likely to significantly underestimate the number of Young Carers”, suggesting figures could be even higher.
Young Carer expert, Provost at the University of Sussex and Little Dreamers Advocate, Professor Saul Becker, states that “in the UK and other advanced countries, there is an emerging consensus that around 10% of children and young people are Young Carers.”
Saul’s research is “based on a methodology which asks children directly whether they are involved in various caring roles for an ill or disabled relative/parent in their family.”
This is further substantiated in the 2016 Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC), which found at least one in 10 Australian 14-15-year-olds self-reported providing care for a household member in Australia.
The various survey instruments and methods used in Australia mean that often, different numbers are reported, sometimes in the same research paper. This means that:
- There is no accurate read of the numbers of Young Carers in Australia
- Funding is therefore not appropriately assigned or distributed
- Training is not being utilised in appropriate industries including education, medicine, nursing, social work and community services
- Little support for Young Carers at transition points in their life results in lower education completion rates, higher unemployment rates and increased prevalence of mental illness
Little Dreamers is Australia’s leading Young Carer support organisation, working with thousands of Young Carers every year to recognise, amplify and advocate for one of Australia’s most vulnerable youth populations (Australian Child Wellbeing Project, 2016).
With this clarity surrounding the prevalence of Young Carers in Australia, Little Dreamers is moving to match the United Kingdom in defining this group focusing on early intervention and prevention of risk factors:
‘A young person under 25 who provides, or intends to provide care, assistance or support to a family member with an illness, disability, or addiction.’
In 2015, the Federal Government announced the Integrated Carer Support Service with an increased focus on early intervention and prevention. This newly supported Young Carer definition address youths who will inevitably provide care for as they grow older thus matching the early intervention approach.
So what does this mean?
We’re already watching and implementing some great new initiatives focusing on enhanced education, legislation and long-term support of Young Carers in our community. What we need more of is:
- Programs to identify and support Young Carers in schools as per the Victorian Labor election promise
- Trainings for sectors on identification and awareness e.g. doctors, nurses, social workers, teachers, pharmacists
- More funding and research from a Federal Government level to be focused on Young Carers as a separate at-risk group of young people, not to be lumped in with adult carers
- Support to create carer friendly workplaces to improve people and culture and reduce high carer unemployment rates
Note: You may notice that some of the statistics are over 10 years old and some of them are from the UK. There is a serious shortage of research coming out of Australia and around the world. We’re on a mission to fix this.
About Little Dreamers
Little Dreamers Australia is a not for profit organisation working to improve the quality of life for Young Carers and Special Siblings across Australia.
At Little Dreamers, we do things differently. We co-design our programs with Young Carers to ensure our vision aligns with those we’re supporting. Our mission always remains front and centre: to break down barriers, empower Young Carers and their families and create supportive care communities, with a vision of long-lasting change.
For further questions or comments, please contact Emma at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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