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Fact sheet

Assessments for young carers (England)

The Carers (Equal Opportunities) Act 2004 placed a duty on local authorities to inform carers, regardless of their age, of their rights to an assessment.

Children (aged under 18) who are carers should be offered an assessment as "a child in need" under the Children Act 1989. This assessment must include their new rights under the Carers (Equal Opportunities) Act 2004, which says that their assessment must consider their work, education and leisure needs. Work may not always be relevant to under 16s, but young carers often miss out on education and leisure when they have an inappropriate caring role.

The Framework for the Assessment of Children in Need and their Families gives important guidance to local authorities on assessing young carers. It should be read in conjunction with the government guidance to the Carers (Equal Opportunities) Act 2004.

The Framework for Assessment of Children in Need and their Families states:

Assessing the Needs of Young Carers

3.61 A group of children whose needs are increasingly more clearly recognised are young carers, for example those who assume important caring responsibilities for parents and siblings. Some children care for parents who are disabled, physically or mentally ill, others for parents dependent on alcohol or involved in drug misuse. For further information and guidance refer to the Carers (Recognition and Services) Act 1995: Policy guidance and Practice Guide (Department of Health, 1996a) and Young Carers: Making Start (Department of Health, 1998a).

3.62 An assessment of family circumstances is essential. Young carers should not be expected to carry out inappropriate levels of caring which have an adverse impact on their development and life chances. It should not be assumed that children should take on similar levels of caring responsibilities as adults. Services should be provided to parents to enhance their ability to fulfil their parenting responsibilities. There may be differences of view between children and parents about appropriate levels of care. Such differences may be out in the open or concealed. The resolution of such tensions will require good quality joint work between adult and children’s social services as well as co-operation from schools and health care workers. This work should include direct work with the young carer to understand his or her perspective and opinions. The young person who is a primary carer of his or her parent or sibling may have a good understanding of the family’s functioning and needs which should be incorporated into the assessment.

3.63 Young carers can receive help from both local and health authorities. Where a child is providing a substantial amount of care on a regular basis for a parent, the child will be entitled to an assessment of their ability to care under section 1(1) of the Carers (Recognition and Services) Act 1995 and the local authority must take that assessment into account in deciding what community care services to provide for the parent. Many young carers are not aware that they can ask for such an assessment. In addition, consideration must be given as to whether a young carer is a child in need under the Children Act 1989. The central issue is whether a child’s welfare or development might suffer if support is not provided to the child or family. As part of the National Strategy for Carers (1999a), local authorities should take steps to identify children with additional family burdens. Services should be provided to promote the health and development of young carers while not undermining the parent.

There is an excellent young carers Assessment proforma which can be used as part of a Child in Need assessment. Young carers can receive an initial assessment from any agency (including adults’ agencies) as part of your local Common Assessment Framework (CAF) arrangements.

A whole-family approach to assessment is vital. The community care assessment of the person being cared for should ensure that they do not have to rely on the inappropriate caring responsibility of a child in the first place and should take into account the support they need with their family responsibilities, in accordance with Fair Access to Care guidance. See our exemplar protocol for joint working in Local Authorities below:

Exemplar Protocol for Joint Working between Children’s and Adults’ Services (284 KB)

The Social Care Institute for Excellence has also published guidance on how to develop local joint-working protocols in order to tackle issues when they arise.

SCIE guide: Working Together to Support Disabled Parents