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More young Queenslanders becoming unpaid carers for family, friends

Jun 25 2018

Teenage Queenslanders are increasingly devoting their time to unpaid caring work, looking after family members who are aged, have long-term disabilities or health issues.

New data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows a rise in the number of young carers nationally, forced to juggle education and work with unpaid carer duties in their own homes.

Nearly 30,000 of Queensland’s youth aged between 15 and 24 were contributing hours of their time to unpaid caring work.

Carers Queensland estimates about 60,000 youth from as young as six years old are looking after family members or friends in Queensland.

The organisation’s chief executive Debra Cottrell said young carers faced “huge” challenges.

“I think the rise that is being seen is due to more and more young carers self-identifying,” she said.

“There has been a lot of work done with education and other peak bodies to get the message out there, that it is not about labelling young people as ‘carers’.

“We all want to fit in with our peers and not be seen as ‘different’, but if young people can identify they have caring duties, it is the first step in them being able to get access to services that can support them.”

The 2016 Census reported a slight increase in the number of young carers over the previous 10 years, rising from 5.0 per cent to 5.6 per cent.

Young people aged 15 and over made up 16 per cent of the total number of unpaid carers in Australia, with the majority female.

“Young carers are extremely resilient, but the reality is that it is often a huge challenge to meet their caring responsibilities as well as school and work,” Ms Cottrell said.

“They are often socially isolated because they cannot always do the after school or social activities on weekends, as they may be required to assist in the care of a sibling, preparing meals, doing housework etc.”

She said employers and schools both needed to recognise that many young people had responsibilities outside their work or education, and needed support.

Cultural expectations also played into the pressures placed on young people, the census reported.

Children or teenagers from North Africa or the Middle East were most likely to provide unpaid care, while those from North-West Europe or South America were least likely.

The difficulties of completing studies while looking after sick or disabled family members or friends meant young carers were less likely to complete their year 12 studies.

Only 75 per cent of young carers reported they had completed year 12, compared to 79 per cent of their peers who did not need to provide unpaid caring work.

Ms Cottrell said there “could never be enough support” for young people doing unpaid carers work, but programs run through Carers Queensland, counsellor and advocate support and flexibility in work and study conditions could all help.

Information published on Brisbane Times