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South Lanarkshire Young Carers Service

What is a young carer?

What does it mean to be a Young Carer?

A young carer is a child or young person under 18 years old, or has attained the age of 18 years while a pupil at a school, and has since attaining that age remained a pupil at that or another school. A young person may become a young carer as the result of a family member’s illness, disability, mental health problems, or the misuse of drugs or alcohol in the home. Young carers look after someone who is unwell or disabled, this person may be a parent, grandparent, sibling or other relative and could be short or long term. You may be caring for any amount of hours.


As a young carer you may experience the following feelings:
• great feelings of responsibility
• physical tiredness, due to lifting or helping your relative or doing lots of housework
• worries about the health and future wellbeing of the person you are caring for
• Unhappy or worried about not having time for schoolwork or relaxation
• feelings of embarrassment or shame about the person you are caring for
• Scared to leave the person you care for alone
• Isolated as it is difficult to make and keep new or existing relationships
• Being overwhelmed
Young carers might undertake a wide range of tasks that peers of their own age do not need to do, such as:
• Doing the housework
• Getting things for the person like their medication or slippers
• Going food shopping or helping when they go
• Making a coffee or cup of tea
• You might do the laundry
• Cooking
• Help out by looking after your brothers or sisters
• Do the washing up
• Go to the bank to pay the bills
• Help get the cared for person dressed
• Change their bandages
• Chopping up their food
• Getting up through the night to undertake caring tasks
• Managing/de-escalating a siblings behaviour


These feelings and tasks may mean the young person is a “Young Carer”
A child or young person should not be expected to do as much caring as an adult and adults should not have to rely on their caring abilities.

Most ill or disabled parents try very hard to minimise the effect of their difficulties on their children, and many young carers cope well with caring, especially with the support of other family members. Other families can be isolated due to their limited extended family support, placing additional responsibility on the young carer.

However some young carers may find caring very difficult and stressful and may feel angry because of the caring role but guilty about their feelings. Some young carers may feel overwhelmed and that nobody cares about them, they may feel different and don’t want to tell anyone about their situation. The young carer may be under pressure not to disclose that they are caring. They may feel they have no one to talk or turn to and they may develop health or other problems as they try to deal with their difficult situation.

Young carers might miss school because they do not want to leave the person they care for alone, or because they are too tired to go or afraid that others will not understand their situation. This can impact on how well they achieve in school and in later life.
Some young people do not realise they are a “Young Carer” as the tasks they carry out have always been part of their daily life, perhaps they have increased slowly as the person they care for has needed more assistance and help.


The Carers (Scotland) Act 2016 has extended and enhanced the rights of both adult and young carers in Scotland. If you are providing care to someone as an unpaid carer you have the right to have your needs assessed.  To find out more go to Young Carers Statements. This will explain how young carers can be referred and how the assessment process happens.

Related content

  1. What is a young carer?
  2. Who are we?
  3. What we do
  4. How do you get involved?