It’s about time young adult carers get rights to ensure they have secure housing
Alicia Jones, who has experience as a young adult carer, shares her view on the housing issues facing young adult carers this Carers Rights Day 2023.
Adolescence is meant to be a time to enjoy yourself and do all those stereotypical things people do between 16 and 25; like the first holiday with your friends, going out and having work the next day and just having fun without having to care.
But that simply isn’t the reality for all. Young adult carers are a group of people within society that are very often overlooked and yet they give up so much for the people they care for. Young adult carers are young people aged 16–25 who care, unpaid, for a family member or friend with an illness or disability, mental health condition or an addiction.
This is a group that commonly is associated with not going to university and struggling to stay in employment. However very rarely do we talk about housing and young adult carers.
Nowadays so many young people stay at home longer as getting on the property ladder in today’s climate is proving a challenge even to those earning a good salary.
For me I was fortunate to find somewhere to private rent at 18; however, when my landlord raised the rent due to the energy crisis, it became apparent that I simply wouldn’t be able to stay.
The private rental market is not for the faint hearted especially as a young person; whether it be difficult landlords, housing conditions or high rent. However, add into the mix having a caring responsibility and having someone still depend on you whether it be emotionally or financially – it’s never going to be easy.
Navigating private landlords who don’t want anyone under 25 or anyone on a zero-hour contract, estate agents asking for deposits and fees upfront that young people simply can’t afford, council housing lists being 25 years long and social housing that might be miles from work – that’s if you qualify and don’t earn too much – it is easy to see the sheer volume of challenges facing young people when it comes to housing.
So where do young people go when the system is against them? Some might work mulitple jobs just to pay rent, some might lean on their friendship circle with sofa surfing and others might find a hostel.
Let’s unpick that: in order to prove that an individual is financially reliable to their landlord as well as able to make ends meet, many young people have little choice but to work multiple jobs. They say your 20s are meant to be the ‘best years of your life’ but how can they be when you are burnt out from working?
Hostel accommodation is not for everyone and is much more of a stop gap than a long term solution. Sofa surfing is something much more common than people realise but moving from place to place and having your life in a few boxes in a car isn’t how you should be living your youth.
The housing crisis is not something three wishes from a genie in a lamp is going to fix, but here are three possible changes that I think would help make a huge difference to the lives of young adult carers:
- Make university accommodation housing contracts 52 weeks rather than the standard 39-42 weeks. I’m not saying all halls of residence should become 52 weeks, but young adult carers shouldn’t have to see accommodation as the reason they cannot go to university. One could argue that you can privately rent a room for 52 weeks. But if that room is on the other side of the city and not with other students, housing becomes a factor for why you can’t experience the university experience.
- Make young adult carers a criteria box for social housing and take into account their situation of being a carer rather than their income. Yes, I realise how difficult this could be in reality, but it would help add weighting as to why young adult carers may need reduced rent or social housing. Young adult carers are already a very vulnerable group and very much need to be in a supported and safe environment in order to thrive and achieve in their lives.
- Have housing as a part of the transition assessment criteria. During the transition period between 16-18, young carers should go through an assessment (a conversation) about support moving forward and things that may be a barrier for them to succeed. However, this rarely considers the housing needs of young adult carers.
Now today (November 23rd) is Carers rights Day and if I’m honest it’s about time that unpaid young adult carers get some rights about ensuring they have stable and safe living conditions.