A young carer is someone under the age of 25 who takes care of a family member who has a chronic illness, disability, mental health or substance use issue and/or problems related to old age.
Why does this matter?
While caregiving can have many benefits (heightened empathy, maturity and confidence), there are important negative consequences. Significant time away from friends and school, social isolation and heightened stress can impact school retention, post-secondary education and training, employment, health and wellbeing.
How many young carers are there in Canada?
According to Statistics Canada, over 1.18 million youth (15–24 years old) were providing some level of unpaid child and senior care in 2006, a 13.5% increase from 1996 (Stamatopoulos, 2015).
There must be programs in place to help young carers, right?
In fact, so far, very little attention has been paid to these youth in Canada, with no dedicated policies acknowledging their care-work.
Back in 2018, AMI-Quebec recognized this underserved population and the negative ramifications associated with the lack of recognition and support of young carers. A working group was created to explore this further and develop ways for change.
A collaboration of AMI-Quebec and RANQ (Regroupement des aidants naturels du Québec), in March 2019, the first ever Quebec-based symposium on young carers was held in Montreal, with the goal of putting young carers on the map. It aimed to increase recognition and awareness of the problem, and ultimately to advocate for services to address young carers’ needs, and encourage the development of a legal framework that could promote both awareness and support.
So what’s being done about it?
The working group articulated vision and mission statements:
We envision a society that:
Recognizes and values the important contributions young carers make in providing care and support to family and loved ones.
Provides a variety of supports and resources to young carers to assist them in maintaining their caregiving role, and to ensure their healthy physical, emotional, and social development.
The Young Carers Working Group is committed to promote protective factors and minimize risk factors that might be related to providing care to family and loved ones at a young age. The Working Group will:
raise awareness of the role young carers play
explore the range of their needs
encourage the provision of information and supports
influence policies and services aimed at supporting young carers in their role
Promoting awareness and support services continue.
AMI-Quebec will be introducing a young carers support group this fall. Don’t miss the big announcement–click here to sign up for our monthly emails.
RANQ recently developed videos and a guide on young carers, all aimed at increasing awareness; the videos target the education and healthcare sectors, as well as young carers themselves. Recognizing that young carers are often the last ones to identify themselves as young carers, it is hoped that these tools will facilitate recognition and lead to young carers seeking help and support.