SCHOOLS and GPs need to be on alert to spot young carers, says the chief executive of a carers’ charity, after a survey revealed more than 800,000 secondary school age children carry out some level of care.

The survey, by BBC News and Nottingham University, suggests that more than 250,000 young carers are carrying out a high level of care, with 73,000 taking on the highest amount of care.

The last Census in 2011 found there were 166,000 young carers in England aged five to 17-years-old, but this new research suggests the real number is far higher.

Chris Whiley, chief executive of Shipley-based Carers’ Resource, said: “A young carer is anyone under 18 who cares for a parent or sibling with a physical or mental illness, a disability or an addiction to drugs or alcohol.

“We believe the numbers stated in the BBC and Nottingham University survey are so high because no one is realising that these young people are carers. Our schools and GPs need to be on alert about this issue so that young carers are identified and referred to services such as ours or Barnardo’s for emotional and practical support.

“We know many unpaid carers are struggling and feel unsupported due to a lack of finances and resources such as respite and overnight paid-for care. This has a particularly tough impact on children and young people who are caring. They have to grow up quickly and often carry out adult tasks for loved ones such as cooking, cleaning and shopping. They can feel isolated from peers and face bullying and can be living in poverty.

“With support, young carers can be given coping strategies and breaks from caring - but professionals and wider society need to make sure these children have the chance to receive that support by flagging them up.”

Carers’ Resource provides practical and emotional support to 16,000 unpaid carers across the Bradford district.

Research by the charity has shown that being a young carer can affect a child’s school attendance, educational achievement, mental and physical health and future life chances.

A survey of 350 young carers found that 48per cent said having a caring role at a young age made them feel stressed, and 44per cent said it made them feel tired.

On average, young carers miss or cut short 48 school days a year.

Giles Meyer, CEO of national charity Carers Trust, said: “This new data blows all previous figures out of the water, revealing a generation of young carers who are being neglected by society.”

“This is a monumental wake-up call for us all to take responsibility for these vulnerable children.

“Staggeringly, there are six young carers in every secondary school classroom, which gives us an incredibly worrying sense of the scale of this issue for the first time in a decade.”

He added: “While these new figures are shocking, we are not at all surprised. A lack of government commitment to making sure these vulnerable children are routinely identified in school and supported means young carers are slipping through the net.

“Carers Trust is calling on the government to take urgent action to make sure that the rights they enshrined in law to protect all young carers are actually being delivered by local authorities, rather than the patchy, ad-hoc support services currently out there.”

The BBC News and Nottingham University questionnaire was completed by 925 children across England from two year groups - 11 to 12-year-olds and 14 to 15-year-olds. The 800,000 figure would be reached if the survey was extrapolated across England.

Overall, there are more than seven million carers in the UK. By 2030, this number will increase by 3.4 million.

Anyone can become a carer, at any time. Three in five people will become carers at some point in their lives. Carers come from all walks of life, and can be of any age.

The caring role can be instant, for example as the result of a road traffic accident or a stroke, or it can creep up on someone through a progressive illness.

The economic value of the contribution made by unpaid carers in the UK is estimated to be £132bn a year - roughly the same as the NHS budget.

* Carers’ Resource supports unpaid carers through one-to-one support, casework, information, support groups, employment and training advice, planning for emergencies, and maintaining wellbeing.

* For more information visit