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Help for young carers - new Liberal Democrats plan unveiled

September 15, 2019 2:42 PM

The Liberal Democrats plan to address the pressure faced by young carers, including reforming the Carers Allowance Ed Daveygiving young carers a free bus pass.

The party's new Shadow Chancellor, Ed Davey, was himself a young carer for his mother before she passed away when he was 15.

Reflecting, he said: "You have to grow up early as a young carer. As we saw today, without adequate support, being a young carer can hurt your life chances. We must demand better."

The raft of new policies include reforming the Carers Allowance so young people who undertake more than 21 hours a week of education can qualify for the allowance, and treating being a carer by learning institutes and employers as a diversity issue.

Liberal Democrats MP Ed Davey said:

"Carers devote much of their time and energy to selflessly looking after others. The additional burden on young carers of being in school without adequate support takes a toll on health and ambitions, so it is time to right the wrongs.

"The reality is that this Conservative Government simply hasn't done enough. However, Liberal Democrats are committed to providing the support needed so young carers have the resources and confidence to thrive."

The full motion passed by the Liberal Democrats in Bournemouth on 15 September 2019 read

Conference notes that young carers struggle disproportionately with both their education and employment and in particular that:

i) Around 6.5 million people in the UK are carers, with over 700,000 of those being classified as young carers, and by 2030 it is estimated the number of carers will increase by around 6 per cent.
ii) Carers between the age of 16 and 18 are twice as likely to be not in education, employment, or training (NEET) as young people without caring responsibilities, even though most carers need to work to support themselves.
iii) 73 per cent of young carers report having to take time off school to cope with caring responsibilities, and are at risk of missing out on key topics like sex and relationships education, and home economics.
iv) Young adult carers appear to be four times more likely to have to drop out of their college or university course than other students: 56 per cent of young adult carers in college or university were struggling because of their caring role, 17 per cent said they may have to drop out for reasons associated with their caring role and 13 per cent said that they may have to drop out for financial reasons.
v) 45 per cent of young adult carers report mental health problems, and young carers in rural areas are more likely to feel lonely and isolated.
vi) Young carers save the government billions of pounds as they are effectively unpaid workers.
vii) Carers are not eligible for Carer's Allowance if they are in education for more than 21 hours a week.
viii) Currently in some areas, carers can travel for free or at a reduced price with the person they care for.

Conference commends and acknowledges the Liberal Democrat commitments made in policy paper 122, Age Ready Britain (2014), to introduce a Carer's Bonus, support for re-entering the jobs market, and more recognition and rights in the NHS.

Conferences believes that:

a) Being a carer should be given the same support and care as other diversity groups.
b) Young carers need support and specialised education to allow them an equal chance at life, to compensate for missing schooling and to meet the special challenges of their caring roles; this should include cooking classes, finance education, sex education and wellbeing classes.
c) Being in education is not a way to support yourself so you should be eligible for Carers' Allowance.
d) Awareness of carers should be increased to help hidden carers who do not know they are carers and to help employers and educational institutes understand carers.
e) Educational institutions should be providing more support to student carers through measures such as increasing mental health funding, creating support systems such as mentors for carers in education and providing bursaries to cover the extra cost of caring.
f) More should be done to support carers transitioning from a young to an adult carer role.

Conference resolves that:

1. Young carers and young adult carers should be provided with a bus pass that allows them to travel for free without the person they care for.
2. Exam re-takes in all levels of education should be made more readily available for student carers.
3. Learning institutes and employers should treat being a carer as a diversity issue and provide support accordingly.
4. Learning institutes should work with charities to provide all young carers and young adult carers with a support worker.
5. Carers who undertake more than 21 hours a week of education should be able to qualify for Carer's Allowance if they meet the other criteria.
6. In addition to our 'curriculum for life' that should be available to all students, local authorities should ensure that young carers have educational opportunities on finance, sex and relationships and mental health.
7. Awareness about carers should be raised through government campaigns and working with charities.
8. There should be a ban on local authorities expecting under-12s to carry out regular care duties with under-25s only being expected to perform these tasks with their informed consent at an age appropriate level.
9. Duties on statutory bodies to identify, assess, train and support unpaid young carers should be increased.