Covid pushing young carers further into poverty, says report

Young carers and their families’ financial difficulties have been exacerbated since the outbreak began.

Covid pushing young carers further into poverty, says report iStock
About half of those surveyed (14 of the 30 young carers) said they were left with no choice but to use foodbanks within the last year.

The coronavirus pandemic has pushed young carers in Scotland further into poverty, according to a new report.

Research by the University of the West of Scotland (UWS)-Oxfam Partnership found young carers and their families’ financial difficulties have been exacerbated since the outbreak began.

About half of those surveyed (14 of the 30 young carers) said they were left with no choice but to use foodbanks within the last year.

Lou, a 14-year-old young carer who took part in the study, said: “Sometimes we have no money to do the weekly food shopping, so you have to spend differently – you can’t get all the stuff that you want.

“We always have to be careful with what we spend.”

The report is based on interviews and a qualitative survey with young people aged 13-17 who help to look after a family member at home.

It also found some household members have been made redundant, have to work fewer hours, or face a reduction in their income due to the furlough scheme.

Some family members are also putting in more hours of care to cover the lack of support services available during the pandemic.

Dr Chloe Maclean, lecturer in Social Sciences, co-authored the report with and associate lecturer Dr Nicola Hay.

She said: “Covid-19 has created challenges for many people; however, young carers have had a particularly difficult time.

“Work by organisations such as the Carers Trust has shown that young carers’ mental health has deteriorated during the pandemic, whilst their caring responsibilities have only increased.

“Our research demonstrates the financial challenges young carers have faced.

“We don’t often think of children taking on roles which include looking after the family finances, but this study demonstrates that young carers have been forced to assess and worry about their household’s financial situation, looked for paid employment, and limit what they eat, buy, or do to help make ends meet.

“These are not actions that children in Scotland should have to take.”

Jamie Livingstone, head of Oxfam Scotland, said: “This research confirms what many carers across Scotland have known for a very long time: that there’s often an unacceptable poverty price for selflessly looking after a loved one.

“However, the experiences shared in this research by young carers is particularly concerning.

“If the new Scottish Government is serious about building a more caring country, then it should create a new National Outcome focused on valuing and investing in all types of care to drive measurable policy and spending action ensuring that no one – and particularly no young person – is left in poverty as a consequence of caring.”

The report: Young, caring and struggling to make ends meet: the worsening economic circumstances of Scotland’s young carers during Covid-19 – can be found online here.