Young carers

This page explains the duties of the Local Authority to assess and provide support to young people who care for family members.

Persons under 18 who care for family members are entitled to an assessment and support from the Local Authority.

What is a Young Carer?

A young carer is a person under 18 who regularly provides emotional and/or practical support and assistance for a family member who is disabled, physically or mentally unwell or who misuses substances. 

The Carers (Recognition and Services) Act 1995 defined young carers as “Children and young people (under 18) who provide or intend to provide a substantial amount of care on a regular basis”.

This definition excludes children who provide care as part of contractual or voluntary work, but the Local Authority can conduct an assessment if it is felt appropriate.

What are the obligations of the Local Authority towards a young carer?

Under the Carers (Equal Opportunities) Act 2004, Local Authorities must have “a protocol, shared between Adult and Children’s Services, for identifying and assessing young carers”. The Local Authority must be proactive in identifying young carers in its area.

Section 17 Children Act 1989 places a duty on Local Authorities to assess whether a young carer in their area needs support and what those needs are if: 

  • it appears to the Local Authority that a young carer may have need for support;
  • the Local Authority receive a request from a young carer or a parent of a young carer to assess the young carer’s need for support; or
  • an assessment has been carried out, but the circumstances of the young person or person being cared for have changed.

The Local Authority can refuse to carry out an assessment if: 

  • the young carer does not appear to have support needs;
  • an assessment has already been conducted and the circumstances have not changed.

What does a young carer’s assessment involve?

As well as looking at what a young carer is doing, there is also a requirement for the Local Authority to take into account the impact that their caring duties are having on them. Being a young carer can affect the child’s physical and emotional health and impact on their education or training. 

The assessment will look at whether it is appropriate for the young carer to provide, or continue to provide, care for the person in question (section 96 (7) Children and Families Act 2014). Inappropriate or excessive care is defined in the Care and Support Statutory Guidance 2016 as anything which is likely to have an impact on the child’s health, wellbeing or education or which is unsuitable for a particular child. This can include situations where:

  • the young carer cannot access education, e.g. they are regularly absent from school;
  • the young carer is prevented from building relationships and friendships.

Inappropriate caring responsibilities may be:

  • personal care such as bathing and toileting;
  • strenuous physical activity such as lifting;
  • administering medication;
  • maintaining the family budget; and
  • emotional support to the adult.

Under section 96 Children and Families Act 2014, the Local Authority conducting the assessment must pay attention to any education, training or recreation the young person has and whether the young carer works or wishes to work.

If a young carer has already had an assessment, they will only have a right to a new assessment if their needs or the needs of the person being cared for have changed, or if there has been a change in circumstances (section 96 Children and Families Act 2014).

Who is involved in the assessment? 

When conducting a young carer’s needs assessment, the Local Authority must involve:

  • the young carer;
  • the young carer’s parents; and
  • any person whom the young carer or their parents request be involved.

How should the assessment be carried out?

The Young Carers’ (Needs Assessments) (England) Regulations came into effect on 1 April 2015 and set out how the Local Authority must carry out its duties in relation to assessing the needs of young carers.

When conducting a Young Carer’s Needs Assessment the Local Authority must have regard (pay attention) to:

  • the Young Carers age, understanding and family circumstances;
  • the wishes, feelings and preferences of the young carer;
  • any difference of opinion between the young carer, the young carer’s parents and the person cared for, with respect to the care which the young carer provides (or intends to provide); and
  • the outcomes the young carer seeks from the assessment.

The Local Authority must provide certain people with the information it considers necessary to allow them to participate effectively in the assessment:

  • the young carer;
  • the person cared for;
  • the young carer’s parents; and
  • any other person whom the young carer or a parent of the young carer requests should participate in the assessment.

What is expected of the Local Authority?

The ‘assessor’ must meet minimum training and knowledge requirements. Whilst conducting the assessment, the Local Authority must consult experts in relation to the young carer and have regard to any other relevant assessments which have been carried out on the needs of the young carer or the person who is cared for. 

During the assessment the Local Authority must determine the following: 

  • the amount, nature and type of care which the young person provides (or intends to provide);
  • the extent to which this care is (or will be) relied upon by the family (including the wider family) to maintain the well-being of the person cared for;
  • whether the care which the young carer provides (or intends to provide) impacts upon the young carer’s well-being, education and development;
  • whether any of the tasks which the young carer performs (or intends to perform) when providing care are excessive or inappropriate for the young carer to perform, having regard to all the circumstances, and in particular the carer’s age, sex, wishes and feelings;
  • whether any of the young carer’s needs for support could be prevented by providing services to:
    • the person cared for, or
    • another member of the young carer’s family;
  • what the young carer’s needs for support would be likely to be if the carer were relieved of part or all of the tasks the young carer performs (or intends to perform) when providing care;
  • whether any other assessment of the needs for support of the young carer or the person in cared for has been carried out;
  • whether the young carer is a child in need;
  • any actions to be taken as a result of the assessment; and
  • the arrangements for a future review.

The Local Authority must consider whether to combine a young carer’s needs assessment with any other assessment of the needs of the young carer, the person cared for or a member of the young carer’s family. The young carer’s friends and family must be identified by the Local Authority and the Local Authority must consider how those persons can contribute to meeting the outcomes which the young carer seeks from the assessment. 

What practical support is available to young carers?

Some areas have Young Carers Centres or Young Carers Projects to give young carers a chance to socialise and relax. Try contacting your local Children’s Services or Citizen’s Advice Bureau to find out what is available in your area. 

Social workers might also be able to help with the family’s needs. 

Useful Organisations 

Action for Children: Various services providing practical and emotional support to young carers.
Contact: or 01923 361500

Barnardos: support young carer’s and their families with various services
Contact: (national office details are listed on the website)

Carers Direct helpline: confidential information and advice for carers 0300 123 1053

The Children’s Society: various services providing support to young carers
Contact: or 01962 711511