New way to support Northumberland's hundreds of young carers
Young carers in Northumberland are to be supported in a new way – a joint approach by the local authority and the voluntary sector – in a bid to ensure a consistent county-wide offer.
In part, this is because young people in this situation are often reluctant to engage with statutory services, such as the council, for fear they will be taken into care or their parents get in trouble.
This also means that the exact number of young carers in the county is not clear.
A report to a meeting of the council’s family and children’s services committee stated that the ‘only reliable information’ is from the School Health and Wellbeing Survey (2017), which was self-identified and anonymous.
This indicated that there were a total of 354 young carers in Northumberland – 165 at primary level and 199 at secondary level.
However, a further 570 pupils were ‘not sure’ and another 125 ‘preferred not to say, meaning the real figure could be nearer 1,000.
In April 2015, two pieces of legislation came into force, giving new rights to care and support for young carers, young adult carers and their families.
Up until now, the council’s support has been through three commissioned young carers groups, however, this does not cover the whole county, only Hexham, Berwick and Cramlington.
Plus, the report notes that the authority is aware of just 60 young people accessing these groups and it is ‘unable to determine how often they are attending and the impact this is having for them’.
Senior manager Jackie McCormick told the meeting: “We have carried out a very comprehensive review over the last eight to 10 months and we have really looked at everything.
“It has highlighted that there’s a need for a more consistent county-wide offer as well as a more flexible, inclusive approach.”
The new partnership model will see the council retain the duty around promotion, identification and assessment, as well as the requirement to monitor numbers and outcomes.
The more in-depth assessment of the individual needs of each young carer will pass to a voluntary sector provider to work with them on a bespoke support package.
The new service would begin in the new financial year in April and it is envisaged that the number of young carers supported will at least double to 120 by the end of March 2021.
The total annual costs will be £49,000, with £40,000 allocated to the voluntary sector to provide a specialist young carers worker as well as a £2,000 urgent support fund.
The other £9,000 would be used to fund a pass from Active Northumberland for each young carer, which would enable them plus a friend to use sports and leisure facilities.