As the UK's largest carers' charity Carers Trust launches a new website and online community for young carers, new research has shown the shocking effect needing to care for parents or siblings has on the wellbeing of young people who care for others.
The research with over 350 unpaid young carers from carers groups around the country compares the findings with a YouGov poll of 457 non-carers* aged 8-15. When the answers of the 457 non-carers are compared to the 200 young carers who were in the 8-15 age group the carers were less happy, more worried, sadder and more confused than their peers.
When asked what sort of things they worried about, the carers group were twice as worried about money, much more worried about bullying, exams, the future generally and of course they were much more worried about their families.
The full response of 348 young carers were asked how being a young carer made them feel. Around 48% said it made them feel stressed and 44% said it made them feel tired. However 51% percent reported they were proud of being young carers and 42% that it made them happy.
The research also shows a quarter of the young carers group don't have enough people to talk to and 28% said they would like to talk to other young carers online.
For this reason Carers Trust is launching a new online community and website for this age group called Babble (www.youngcarers.net or http://babble.carers.org) which will provide friendship and support online for young carers under 18.
Babble is a space where young carers can find others in a similar position, chat to each other, share their stories and hear about each other's experiences in a safe environment. It has been shaped by talking to young carers about what they want - from easy and fun ways to share content, to community interaction and support.
Babble has been funded by a grant from the Queens Trust.
As well as the support and friendship young carers can find with each other, they will also have access to help and advice, email and chat sessions with the Carers Trust Online Support Team who are all qualified youth and community workers or professionally qualified social workers. They also act as site moderators.
Dr Moira Fraser, Interim Chief Executive of Carers Trust, says: "We know from what young people tell us that caring responsibilities can have a big impact on young carers' mental wellbeing, and this survey really brings home the scale of the issue.
"This is also the first time we've been able to compare young carers' feelings to other children and young people. It shows just how much Babble is needed to combat the risk of isolation and to make sure these young people are as happy and supported as they can be".
Young carers have said the following about online support Carers Trust have provided, and that Babble will allow us to increase hugely:
"It was my sanctuary in the midst of a very difficult time. It was a safe heaven. A place where I could be me and not be judged. It was my lifeline to help / support / friendships and reality - just because it's online it doesn't mean friendships aren't made."
"How do I start on saying what you guys have done for me? Through thick and thin you guys have been here for me. All the laughs I've shared with everyone on the site, both staff and users, makes my day. When there's days with no chat if I'm not busy I actually miss all the amazing people."
"I think it has helped me develop conversation skills and a lot of confidence. I've find it easier to get along with new people. It's also nice to know other young carers because I don't know anyone who's one outside the site. I like the fact everyone tries to help each other. I has a really nice atmosphere and honestly I love everyone there so much!"
"I think, including me, lots of people don't want to make a fuss that they're a young carer and sometimes just want a normal life which is why the online service is good. I use it and it's very helpful."