Girl cooking a meal

Young carers

All children deserve a childhood

Young people with caring responsibilities have all the challenges of being young, with all the responsibilities of being an adult, and they're often left to face these alone. 

Boy carrying laundry up stairs

What is a young carer?

A young carer is someone under the age of 18 who helps to care for a family member, relative or friend. A young person aged 16-25 with caring responsibilities can be known as a young adult carer.

As many as 1 in 5 children and young people are young carers in the UK.  

What do young carers do?

As a young carer you might support someone who has a disability, a long-term illness, or a problem with alcohol or drugs. Without this help, they would struggle or not be able to cope.

Some of the time, I get him his clothes, take his clothes out and push them in the washer. I take his shoes off sometimes…

Young carer, 12 years old

Young carers often do a lot of helpful things, such as: 

  • Cook and prepare meals 

  • Help with the shopping 

  • Clean around the house 

  • Manage medicines or money 

  • Give personal care 

  • Help their special person move and get out of the house 

  • Look after their siblings 

  • Give emotional support  

  • Keep an eye on things generally 

If young carer families start to struggle financially, young carers also often take on work in addition to their caring responsibilities. 

Learn more about what it's like being a young carer with Leah's story.

Impact of being a young carer 

Being a young carer can make young people feel good about themselves and proud of the useful skills they learn. However, many young carers don’t see themselves as carers and miss out on getting the help and support they often so desperately need and deserve. 

Young carers take on caring responsibilities not just occasionally but as part of their everyday lives, often over a long period of time, meaning they also often miss out on opportunities that other children have to play, learn and be young. 

Many struggle educationally with being able to focus on school whilst overwhelmed by other worries or can be bullied for being ‘different’. They can become isolated, with no relief from the pressures at home, with 1 in 3 young carers saying that caring makes them feel stressed. 

If you’re a young carer who is struggling, remember it’s perfectly okay to ask for support when you need it.  

Being a young carer is a tough job. You are taking care of a person you love, maybe your parent, grandparent or a sibling. But always know you have someone to talk to, someone who is able to remove you from your responsibilities for a while so you can have some ‘you’ time.

Young adult carer, 20 years old

How we support young carers 

We aim to help as many young carers as we can. We help them look after their loved ones and give them time to enjoy their childhoods. 

At our services across the UK we: 

  • organise outings and activities for young carers 

  • give young carers advice and emotional support through counselling sessions 

  • help the family get support from social services 

  • talk to a young carer’s school, so teachers understand their situation and can be supportive 

  • run drop-in centres where young carers can take a break, have fun, be a child – and meet other young carers 

Find help as a young carer 

If you're a young person who cares for others or you’re worried about a young carer, you can explore what help you might be entitled to or you can explore our local services to see how we can help. 

Search through our services for young carers and their families in your local area below if you or someone you know needs support. 

Barnardo’s helped me to believe in myself. I started to understand that I can have a life, I don’t need to be home 24/7. I’m part of the Young Carers Council now, and I feel part of something. Before, I didn’t feel like I belonged anywhere.

Megan, young carer

  • Support and advice for families with young carers

    We know that for families who have young people with caring responsibilities, the pressures have greatly increased. We want you to know that you don’t have to deal with this alone.

  • Bella's story

    The cost-of-living crisis has seen people who previously had to choose between heating and buying enough food now struggle to do either. For families like Bella’s, where neither parent can work, it can be especially tough.

  • Get support as a parent or carer

    Explore the other kinds of services Barnardo's offers to support families and children who need extra support.