The Study of Young Carers in the Irish Population, published by my Department in 2010, highlights the importance of creating a better understanding of children as carers in Ireland. It found that it is very difficult to identify young carers in the population.
In order to learn more about children that undertake caring roles, my Department requested the Central Statistics Office to include a question in the Census of Population 2011. People of all ages were asked whether they provide any unpaid personal help for a friend or family member with a long term-term illness, health problem or disability. The Census of Population 2011 found that 6,449 children provided regular unpaid personal help for a friend or family member with a long-term illness, health problems or disability. Overall, 5.6 per 1,000 children provided regular unpaid personal help for a friend or family member with a long-term illness, health problem or disability. Rates ranged from 4.3 per 1,000 in Co. Louth to 8.2 per 1000 in Co. Leitrim. It is further planned, under the National Strategy for Research and Data on Children’s Lives published by my Department in November 2011, that a detailed analysis of those children who report in the 2011 Census that they undertake caring roles, will be carried out by the end of 2013. It is anticipated that the analysis will inform future policy as to how best to address the support needs of children and young people who undertake caring roles.
In 2012 the Department of Health published The National Carers’ Strategy – Recognised, Supported, Empowered. The strategy recognizes that although the needs of young carers can be similar to carers of any age, they may have additional needs, which include support in education to help them to achieve their full potential.
My Department has been supporting the implementation of this strategy by ensuring that the children strategies which it is developing are cognisant of the necessity to make them as ‘carer friendly’ as possible. However, given the young age that the Childcare Directorate is dealing with, the number of cases where children might be carers is very small.
In preparation for the establishment of the new Child and Family Agency (CFA) the following actions have been taken that are relevant to the Carers Strategy: - Child care staff have been alerted to the strategy and its relevance to children with carer responsibilities; - Strategy disseminated to key children and family services staff; - Linkages between carer responsibilities and child protection issues have been highlighted to staff.
The National Education Welfare Board (NEWB) is developing national guidelines as a practical support for schools in the preparation of School Attendance Strategies as outlined in Section 22 of the Education (Welfare) Act, 2000. The guidelines will assist schools to implement effective measures to support children at risk of poor attendance and participation, including those with caring responsibilities.
The NEWB has made significant progress towards delivering an integrated school support service based on the principle of “One Child, One Team, One Plan". This streamlined national approach will enhance education support services and enable the NEWB to respond appropriately to the circumstances in which children and families need help from NEWB. Consultation on the practice model started in October 2012 and concluded early in 2013. The model is also being developed to complement and link with models of practice and methods of working proposed by the new Child and Family Agency (CFA) within its proposed National Service Delivery Framework.