The Children and Families Bill reaches its final stages in the House of Commons today with Report Stage and Third Reading.
The Bill has been a long time coming and so it is perhaps surprising that there are a number of glaring omissions when it comes to improving support for vulnerable children and families.
One of the biggest gaps in the Bill is the failure of the Government to join up support for young carers. This Carers Week the Government has a chance to put that right.
Young carers are children and young people who provide regular and on-going care and emotional support to a parent, sibling or grandparent who is physically or mentally ill, disabled or misuses substances. The 2001 census identified 175,000 young carers in the UK, with 13,000 caring for more than 50 hours per week. Analysis by the National Young Carers Coalition shows that the 2011 census identified 178,000 young carers in England and Wales alone; an 83% increase in the number of young carers aged 5 to 7 years and a 55% increase in the number of children caring who are aged 8 to 9 years. Caring can have a massive impact on the lives o these children and young people. It is vital we take action to support them better. That’s why I supported amendments to the Bill at Committee stage to improve identification and support for young carers at home and at school.
Young carers can miss out on the support they need, impacting on their educational and employment prospects. Caring can have worrying effects on their health and wellbeing. Failure to identify and support young carers and their families can also lead to crisis and avoidable child protection issues.
Adult carers are due to receive new rights under the Care Bill. However, it is still not clear whether the Government will ensure that young carers will also benefit from stronger rights to protect their futures.
The Children and Families Bill and the Care Bill provide a real opportunity for Government to make this right for young carers. Young carers should not be left behind with unequal rights compared with adult carers. For too long, young carers have not been protected sufficiently by the law. It is only right that young carers are protected the same as adult carers.
Supporting New Clause 5 at Report stage of the Children and Families Bill would make a real difference for young carers. The National Young Carers Coalition have done a great job highlighting this issue and I hope colleagues in Parliament will support this amendment for assessing and supporting young carers, to ensure these vulnerable young people don’t lose out.
The Government has a duty to protect the rights of young carers and I will continue to press them on this issue.