Who are young carers and how many are there?
Young carers are children and young persons under 18 providing significant or substantial care, assistance or support to family members who have a disability, suffer from chronic illness, mental health problem or other condition connected with a need for care. They assume a level of responsibility that would usually be associated with an adult.
Young adult carers
18– 24 years
Adolescent young carers
15- 17 years
In the United Kingdom, it is estimated that around 8% of population 11-18 years old are young carers. Similar figures apply to Sweden (7%, 14-16 years), whereas in other countries (e.g. Italy) there are only more general data or even none (as for Slovenia).
The impact of caring on mental health
Taking on caring tasks without being prepared and in parallel with other developmental patterns (education, social life, personal identity) can lead to a situation of severe burden, with consequences for adolescent young carers’ mental health and wellbeing. Moreover, the lack of appropriate support at a transitional phase of their life – between education and employment – may jeopardise their educational and professional attainment and, ultimately, their life chances (OECD, 2016). In addition to the impact at individual level, the failure to adequately support adolescent young carers has long-term negative consequences for society as a whole.
Despite the relevance of the phenomenon and the societal costs that it entails, very few countries in the European Union have developed any discernible level of awareness, nor any specific policy and/or support services in response to the situation of adolescent young carers.
The relevance of the project
The Me-We Project seeks to challenge the status quo. ME-WE will contribute to ensuring good mental health, which is increasingly recognised as an important driver of economic growth and social development in Europe. Moreover, it is expected that the Me-We project will also have positive long-term effects on employment and higher education opportunities for adolescent young carers, mitigating the risk of being Not in Employment, Education or Training (NEET). The Me-We project will therefore contribute to the Europe 2020 strategy target of reducing the rate of early school leaving to below 10% as well.