Last Thursday we joined UnitingCare Wesley Bowden (UCWB) at The Caring Camp, an immersive research experience held at Mylor Adventure Camp.

The Caring Camp invited Young Carers (YCs) to speak about their roles and the challenges and benefits they had experienced performing a caring role at a young age. The camp also presented an opportunity for carers to engage directly with decision makers and funders while providing a safe space to form connections and foster their own wellbeing away from daily caring responsibilities.

Young Carers are children and young people up to 25 years who help care for someone who has an illness, disability, mental health challenges, an alcohol or drug problem, or who is frail/aged.

While the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) estimates there are 28,000 young carers in South Australia (ABS, 2015) this data only captures carers 15-years or older. Carers SA suggests there are closer to 30,500 young carers in SA, approximately 7% of the youth population.
Carers SA, SA Carers Count – Key Issues Facing Carers, 2018

While caring can be a positive experience, research shows that it can also have profound impacts on a young person’s wellbeing, including:

    • Social isolation;
    • Risk of mental health issues due to impaired psychosocial development, low self-esteem and unresolved feelings of fear, worry, sadness, anger, resentment and guilt (DSS, Young Carers research project final report, 2002);
    • Caring can also have an impact on a young person’s life opportunities.

While they explored relationship challenges like losing friends and missing integral social and academic events these YCs also spoke about how lucky they felt to be in a position to fight ignorance surrounding mental health, disability, chronic illness and addiction and to advocate on behalf of themselves and those to whom they provide care.

One Young Carer at the camp expressed wanting to talk about the hardships and difficulties of being a YC to their family member without fear of this contributing to a wider negative discourse around why individuals might require a young family member to fulfil the role.

The Young Carers articulately identified challenges and gaps in the behemoth of intertwined and intermingled services they navigate when seeking support. By listening to their analysis of service gaps, accessibility issues, and how best to identify and support Young Carers could influence change.