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Jon Scarth

Jon Scarth is a Project Manager at Quaker Social Action.

Why we’re housing young adult carers

Think about what a 21-year-old carer may need support with.  

We might consider things like developing their caring skills, education advice or employment support. Healthy eating, mental health support and benefit advice might also come up. Housing support however, is far less likely to be on that list. But why?  

In 2012, David Cameron suggested that young people who were no longer entitled to housing benefit should just stay in the family home and with the ever increasing challenge of the UK’s housing crisis, it is tempting to see a room with a roof as sufficient enough.  

But all systems need slack. Without somewhere to go, problems of domestic violence, overcrowding, gang violence and substandard housing become hard to resolve. 

Young adult carers need a place to live, but they also need to move on from their family home. Our tenants come to us feeling restricted; unable to be properly independent whilst living in the home where they are providing care.  

As much as they appreciate the person they care for, having their own physical space means that they can set some boundaries in their caring role. They can then find the emotional space to work out what they want to achieve for themselves, as our tenants have expressed: 

“It’s absolutely impossible for me to have free time in my [family] house.” Move On Up participant, Learning and Work Institute Evaluation, 2018. 

“I want to do my career, so obviously because I am looking after my mum at the time or full-time I couldn’t really think about any full-time work because a full-time carer is a job in itself, so you can’t really commit to anything for yourself. So, that’s the reason why [I wanted to participate in Move On Up], just space and giving yourself time to think to know exactly what I want to do.” Move On Up participant, Learning and Work Institute Evaluation, 2018. 

A second reason we may not consider housing support as an option for young carers is the potential threat it may cause to the caring relationship.  

Carers in the UK do an estimated £132 billion of free caring work every year. Much of the support carers receive is rightfully there to make their job easier for the benefit of both the carer and the person they care for. Offering them their own home is potentially taking care away from somebody who needs it.  

But our recently published report from the Learning and Working Institute has found that this intuition is not necessarily true.  

“Both the project manager and participants felt that the happier carers were, the better the care they provided. As such, improved wellbeing for the project participants could have a knock-on positive impact on their families.” Learning and Work Institute Evaluation, 2018. 

Our clients are carers who are in the formative years of their lives. Our job is only done if they can continue to care in a way they are comfortable with whilst developing their own lives.  

This week and all weeks, we should think about young carers and the amazing work they do. We should also consider their own lives and future, and what we can do to ensure they have every opportunity to progress into adulthood independently.  

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