Today we are celebrating the contributions many of our young people make as carers. It is Young Carers Awareness Day.
Caring can take many forms – a sibling caring for another sibling with a learning disability, a child looking after a parent, a young person helping aid a grandparent.
The world of care is diverse and often misunderstood, and many of our young carers are overlooked. They are balancing their care responsibilities with school work and sometimes have little time left over.
One issue I wanted to explore here is the symbiotic value of care. Yes, young carers are taking time to look after their relative, but what do they get in return? Not pay, in most cases. But they do get relationship.
Spending time together, in a care situation, creates an intimacy not found elsewhere. The relationship that develops can be deeper than it would have been without the aspect of care. The dimensions giving and receiving care adds to a relationship are profound.
If we look at the care a parent gives a child, and that a child receives from the parent, we would recognise the depth of love that develops in the parent giving that care. Nothing quite replaces the sleepless nights and seemingly endless tasks that are the basis for that parent-child relationship of mutuality.
That same depth of relationship is experienced by our young carers. Yes, the care responsibilities might be burdensome, and perhaps other means should be put in place so that not so much is expected of our young people, but we must recognise that there are relational benefits in giving care.
It is balance, and not asking our young people to give too much, that must be addressed. Today’s focus for Young Carers Awareness Day is mental health. Giving our young carers the support they need and picking up on mental health concerns early, is key.
We must acknowledge the inadequate support given to our young carers as a result of austerity and budget cuts. And we also recognise so much more money is needed for children and young people’s mental health care in general.
Our support for young carers should not be based on the suggestion they are harmed by giving care, but rather our support should enable them to carry out caring relationships that can give joy and fulfilment.
* Kirsten Johnson is the PPC for North Devon and Day Editor of Lib Dem Voice.