Young Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic children who care for ill or disabled relatives are more likely than other young carers to be isolated from support services, a Barnardo’s report published today reveals.
New research from the UK’s leading children’s charity says BAME young carers in England are missing out on their childhoods because of the additional responsibilities and stresses they have to deal with.
Barnardo’s research, based on interviews with BAME young carers and practitioners found that many young south Asian carers were far too often being relied upon as interpreters, relaying technical and deeply personal medical information between patients and doctors, which can lead to misdiagnosis and increased anxiety within families.
Furthermore, the concept of a young carer is unfamiliar to many BAME communities as helping your family and extended family is often expected. Often BAME families do not want agencies involved as there is a deep mistrust of social services, or authorities and they are fearful of their families being split up. Additionally, there is stigma within many BAME communities in acknowledging mental health and disability issues and in seeking support.
The Caring Alone report highlights how young carers like 19-year-old Neha Lathia suddenly had to care for both parents and her two siblings, Priyanka and Dev, while studying for her A-levels. She said: “I have to translate at most hospital appointments. There’s never been a translator at the hospital, so I have to be there to do it. And sometimes a word simply doesn’t exist in Gujarati, so I have to try and find another word or explain some other way.
“Everything changed for me when my parents got ill. I had a panic, thinking how is Dev going to get to school? How are we going to pick him up? How am I going to get to college on time? And how will I have enough time to do my homework and revise?
“I get myself and Dev up. Then we come down and give mum and dad their medication, check they are okay and we get breakfast and Dev ready for school. I walk Dev to school. I come home then and make breakfast for mum and dad and I look at any bills or other household things, then I wash up or do any washing or cleaning and do the other chores like shopping.If I have any time I try and revise for a bit. I’d not heard of being a young carer. That is what is expected for Indian families.”
Barnardo’s Chief Executive Javed Khan said:“Many young carers already have it tough, balancing cooking, cleaning, washing, shopping, and helping to look after siblings, alongside trying to keep up with their school work. But young carers from some BAME communities are even less likely to access support, due partly to the stigma attached to asking for help.
“Young people are often proud of their role in caring for family members. But as a society we must protect them from taking on too much responsibility at a young age, and from sacrificing their education, or physical and mental health. It’s not right that BAME young carers often have to interpret complicated medical information for a loved one, which can lead to misdiagnosis and cause additional stress. This group of vulnerable children are often “hidden”, and there is an urgent need to break down barriers so they are not left to struggle on their own.”
Barnardo’s key recommendations in the Caring Alone report include: that all patients who don’t speak English should have access to a translator. Children and young people should never be expected to translate for a relative.
Additionally, the report recommends that the NHS should work with communities to tackle stigma around within BAME communities to reduce the stigma of mental illness, special needs and disability and improve access to services. Furthermore, NHS services should employ community outreach workers to improve understanding and relationships in BAME communities.