A SCIE Research briefing provides up-to-date information on a particular topic. It is a concise document summarising the knowledge base in a particular area and is intended as a 'launch pad’ or signpost to more in-depth investigation or enquiry. It is not a definitive statement of all evidence on a particular issue. The briefing is divided into the different types of knowledge relevant to health and social care research and practice, as defined by the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE). It is intended to help health and social care practitioners and policy-makers in their decision-making and practice.
The topic of this briefing is the health and well-being of young carers. There is no standard definition of the term "young carer". The National Strategy for Carers defines young carers as "persons under the age of 18 who have caring responsibilities for another family member who is either unwell (from either mental or physical illness) or disabled". A more detailed definition is provided by the Blackwell Encyclopaedia of Social Work: "Children or young persons under 18 who provide or intend to provide care, assistance or support to another family member. They carry out, often on a regular basis, significant or substantial caring tasks and assume a level of responsibility which would normally be associated with an adult". The definition and classification of a young carer is recognised as very important because it carries with it certain rights to services, such as an assessment of needs. This briefing considers young carers performing a caring role for parents only, rather than for siblings or other family members. The group of parents considered for this briefing include the physically disabled and chronically ill, and parents with learning disabilities, mental health problems or problems of addiction.