What is a carer?

Definition of a carer

A carer is anyone who cares, unpaid, for a friend or family member who due to illness, disability, a mental health problem or an addiction cannot cope without their support.

Anyone can become a carer; carers come from all walks of life, all cultures and can be of any age. Many feel they are doing what anyone else would in the same situation; looking after their mother, son, or best friend and just getting on with it.

Carers don’t choose to become carers: it just happens and they have to get on with it; if they did not do it, who would and what would happen to the person they care for?

Find out why carers need support

What is a young carer?

Young carers are children and young people who often take on practical and/or emotional caring responsibilities that would normally be expected of an adult.

Young carers often take on practical and/or emotional caring responsibilities that would normally be expected of an adult. The tasks undertaken can vary according to the nature of the illness or disability, the level and frequency of need for care and the structure of the family as a whole.

A young carer may do some or all of the following:

  • Practical tasks, such as cooking, housework and shopping.
  • Physical care, such as lifting, helping a parent on stairs or with physiotherapy.
  • Personal care, such as dressing, washing, helping with toileting needs.
  • Managing the family budget, collecting benefits and prescriptions.
  • Administering medication.
  • Looking after or “parenting” younger siblings.
  • Emotional support.
  • Interpreting, due to a hearing or speech impairment or because English is not the family’s first language.

Some young carers may undertake high levels of care, whereas for others it may be frequent low levels of care. Either can impact heavily on a child or young person.

How does Carers.org support carers?

Carers Trust provides 24-hour access to information, advice and peer support for carers wherever they live in the UK, via our online community of carers. The discussion boards, blogs and chat room give carers the opportunity to share experiences, seek advice and meet others in a similar position. 

Our online support team are also on hand to answer carers' enquiries via support@carers.org

This website provides carers with a wealth of relevant information via our help directory, details of all our local Carers’ Centres around the UK and access to information on local services and events.

Where can young carers go for online support?

YCNet, at www.youngcarers.net, is the only dedicated website and online support service for children and young people under the age of 18, who help to look after someone in their family with an illness, disability, drug/alcohol addiction or mental health problem.

YCNet has an online support team who are on hand to provide help and advice and to ensure a safe environment where young carers can chat to others in a similar position. The Trust also run a buddying scheme for new members and one-to-one support sessions for young carers who are in crisis or need extra support.