Young Carers in Australia:Understanding the Advantages and Disadvantages of Their Care Giving

FaHCSIA Social Policy Research Paper No. 38

132 Pages Posted: 5 Nov 2010

See all articles by Bettina Cass

Bettina Cass

University of Sydney

Clara Smith

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Trish Hill

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Megan Blaxland

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Myra Hamilton

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Date Written: December 1, 2009

Abstract

The study consisted of a literature review, quantitative analysis of existing national data sets, qualitative analysis of focus groups with young carers and analysis of findings from focus groups and interviews undertaken with Australian Government policy makers and service providers in the non-government sector.

Literature review and overview of the issues: The literature strongly suggests young carers tend to be located in identifiable socioeconomic–cultural circumstances, often in low-income families, and in families of migrant and/or culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds where care giving is central to mobilisation of intergenerational resources and strengths. The Australian and United Kingdom literature also emphasises the issue of recognising and making contact with ‘hidden young carers’, so they are in a position to access the services and supports available to them . Quantitative analysis derived from Census of Population and Housing 2006, ABS Survey of Disability Ageing and Carers 2003 and the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia survey 2005.

Overall, the evidence suggests the costs of care are in terms of lower levels of completion of all years of education, lower rates of employment participation, lower levels of household economic resources and lower scores on self-reported mental health for young carers.

Qualitative analysis: focus groups with young carers: • Care is labour: the areas of young people’s lives generally most affected by care giving include their schooling and for older carers their employment, and for many young carers their opportunities for friendship and social life. However, the diversity of young carers’ responsibilities and the continuum of intensity of the care they provide must be recognised. • Care is located in a normative framework of familial obligations within which young people may not identify themselves as carers. This is the context in which many young carers expressed the view that despite the evident strains of care giving they were able to identify, they nevertheless wish to continue their responsibilities so as to protect the strength and integrity of their families and contribute to the health and wellbeing of the person for whom they care. • Caring incurs costs: participants in the young carer focus groups reported strains with respect to their efforts to combine school education and care, enter further education and training, and combine employment and caring. Caring often incurs costs to friendships and social life, and costs to emotional and mental health. Most significantly, the evidence of these focus groups is strongly suggestive of the financial strains imposed by both care giving and disability or long-term ill health within the family. This is especially important with respect to perceived access to services, and to participation in social and friendship activities that may alleviate the burden of care giving. • There are benefits as well as costs. The young people perceive profound contributions to the wellbeing of the care receiver and the whole family; they see their caring responsibilities contributing to the wellbeing and integrity of the whole family. Young carers also perceive that they acquire valuable skills, including a sense of maturity, independence and a deep sense of achievement, which they believe should be much better recognised and more widely valued and respected.

There are a number of formal services that young carers and their families received and appreciated and that they and service providers would like to see more widely available: • adequate financial support given the costs of ill health and disability and the constraints imposed on their parents’ employment • respite care for longer hours to benefit both the care recipient and the young carer so they can complete their education with less strain and participate in friendship and social activities. Assistance with domestic activities, especially with transport, was often emphasised. To help relieve the strain of balancing education and care, and employment and care, focus group participants spoke of the need for schools, TAFE colleges, universities and workplaces to institute much more flexible arrangements to fully and appropriately accommodate their care giving responsibilities.

Qualitative analysis: Focus groups with policy makers and service providers: Analysis of the interviews and focus groups with policy makers, service providers and carer advocacy organisations revealed three key themes: the importance of recognising young carers and identifying hidden young carers; the centrality of education as a site for identifying and supporting young carers; and the need for expanded provision of age-appropriate and culturally-sensitive support services, and appropriate forms of financial support.

Conclusions: The research identified the following issues for policy development: • raising awareness of young carers in a range of institutional settings, including schools, the health care system, and mainstream family and young people’s services • recognising the centrality of education as a site for identifying and supporting young carers through whole-of-school commitments • taking a whole-of-family approach to service development and provision that recognises the close connections between support for young carers and support for the family members for whom they provide care • providing appropriate and timely information about available services and supports to young carers and their families • recognising the importance of age-appropriate and culturally-appropriate services and supports • addressing unmet support needs for domestic help, respite, transport assistance and counselling • providing appropriate and adequate financial assistance to young carers and their families • providing help with entry into post-school training and further education • providing help with seeking and entering employment • recognising the specific support needs of young carers whose circumstances and concerns may not be appropriately addressed, including young people of Indigenous background, culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds and those in rural and remote areas.

Suggested Citation

Cass, Bettina and smith, clara and Hill, Trish and BLAXLAND, MEGAN and Hamilton, Myra, Young Carers in Australia:Understanding the Advantages and Disadvantages of Their Care Giving (December 1, 2009). FaHCSIA Social Policy Research Paper No. 38, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1703262 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1703262

Bettina Cass (Contact Author)

University of Sydney ( email )

University of Sydney
Sydney NSW 2006
Australia

Clara Smith

affiliation not provided to SSRN ( email )

Trish Hill

affiliation not provided to SSRN

No Address Available

MEGAN BLAXLAND

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Myra Hamilton

affiliation not provided to SSRN ( email )

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