Plaid Cymru AM says that current Welsh policy isn’t enough to stop young carers being left behind
Plaid Cymru AM for South Wales West, Bethan Jenkins, will lead a debate on Wednesday 5th July calling for more actions to make sure young carers in Wales get the support and services they need to maintain their education, have better access to social and recreational activities and be able to carry out their responsibilities as carers.
It’s estimated that there are as many as 11,000 young carers in Wales below the age of 16 and over 20 thousand young adult carers. However many of those carers in full time education, including in primary school, are not being recognised and not receiving any support from schools or local authorities. Wales currently has the highest percentage of young carers in the UK.
Bethan Jenkins has been engaging with young carers and organisations, aiming to highlight some of the most pressing issues.
Carers Trust Wales and YMCA have supported the calls for more action.
Bethan Jenkins said:
“Even though the Social Care Act was passed 3 years ago, outlining the obligations of authorities to provide support, particularly in education, it’s clear from evidence and what we are being told, that the quality and availability of support is patchy and that across Wales it can vary widely. Many young carers are simply not known to their teachers or to their local authorities due to the fear of stigma and the worry over the school or authority becoming involved in family life. This makes efforts to provide proper support that much more difficult.
“I don’t believe that current policy goes far enough to make sure young carers aren’t left behind. There needs to be more specific guidance placed upon local authorities and schools to provide timely and flexible support in education and training made available so that teachers are better able to engage with carers in their classrooms and identify young carers who may need support.”
Bethan Jenkins also pointed to difficulties in young carers obtaining prescriptions on behalf of those in their care, with many young carers not known to local pharmacies and being under the age of 16, and called for more engagement so that medicines could be obtained more easily. Miss Jenkins added:
“It’s a difficult situation as some pharmacies are understandably reluctant to hand over some medicines in particular. All options need to be examined such as expanded delivery services or engagement efforts to ensure young carers are known to their local pharmacists or using the idea of a young carers card to also be proof of status to make collection easier.”
The AM has offered to work with the Welsh Government to identify practical solutions to some of the problems faced by young carers, noting that she would welcome engagement from Assembly Members during the Assembly debate on how some of the issues raised could be tackled. Bethan Jenkins said:
“There are solutions to look at, supported by third sector organisations, which could make a real difference. Improved training for teachers and those working in the health care sector is one way of ensuring more young carers are recognised and their needs listened to. Following that, there needs to be a greater level of uniformity in services across the country so that we can get young carers the support they deserve. There are some great pilot schemes in place, but it’s now time we began expanding these schemes and providing the level of Welsh Government funding and guidance needed so that we can plug the gaps in provision. My hope is that we can help kick off a wider conversation and provide more visibility to these vital issues”.