If you're a young carer, apply for the Young Carer Grant

Young carers play a hugely important role in society but their work often goes overlooked – even by their friends and teachers. The Young Carer Grant can help these carers access some of the life opportunities their peers take for granted

Advertorial by Jamie Dunn | 04 Mar 2022
  • Young Carer Grant
Social Security Scotland
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Being a teenager isn’t easy. There’s the constant pressure of school and homework, and the dreaded exams at the end of it all that could end up defining your future. On top of getting your head around algebra and mastering composition, you’ve also to do the hard work of starting to figure out who you are and the type of person you want to be. And that’s all while there are a whole bunch of hormones coursing around your body affecting your mood, mind and physical appearance. In short, growing up can be tricky. But some young people have to grow up a bit faster than others if they’re among the estimated 29,000 young carers in Scotland.

The Carers Trust defines a young carer as someone aged 18 or under who cares for a family member or friend who cannot cope without their support. This relative – usually a parent or sibling – might have a disability or illness that requires daily care, a mental health condition or drug or alcohol problems. As well as providing physical, mental and emotional support for that person, the young carer might have to learn the type of skills expected of a nurse or home help to make sure the person they care for has their needs met. And young carers often have many more household responsibilities than your average teen, from laundry and housework to cooking, shopping, picking up prescriptions and making sure bills get paid.

Many young carers may not even consider themselves young carers. Children as young as five might start helping out around the house, taking on extra responsibilities without realising these aren’t expected of other children. And the people around young carers – like neighbours, teachers and friends – might not realise they’re carers either. The Children’s Society estimates that 39% of young carers keep their caring responsibilities secret, despite the fact they often have to miss school or cancel plans with their friends to take care of their loved ones.

The pressure on young carers, then, can be immense. And this pressure was only exacerbated by the pandemic, which kept young carers at home 24/7 and meant they weren’t able to take a break. Many young people in this position are burnt out, exhausted and denied many of the freedoms their friends take for granted. This is why the Young Carer Grant – the first benefit of its kind in the UK – has been introduced in Scotland: to go some way towards helping young carers access the life opportunities that are the norm for many of their peers.

The Young Carer Grant is a yearly payment of £308.15 (this figure is due to increase on 1 April) that you can apply for if you’re aged 16 to 18 years-old and if you have acted as a carer for an average of 16 hours a week for at least the last three months. And if you care for more than one person, you can combine the hours of the people you care for to reach that average 16 hours. How you spend your Young Carer Grant is not prescribed. It might help you take a break from caring and be put towards a holiday. Equally, it could be used to freshen up your wardrobe, get yourself some driving lessons or have a few nice nights out with friends. It’s completely up to you, but the aim is to give you some of the opportunities you may have had to sacrifice by being a young carer.

The person you care for will need to be recieving a qualifying benefit, but don’t worry if you don’t know, Social Security Scotland can check for you. Otherwise, the grant isn’t means tested – you can apply whatever your household income – and you don't need to be in education to qualify. And don’t worry, accepting the grant has no bearing on any other benefits you or the people in your household receive.

Young Carers play a hugely important role in society. Their responsibilities are often huge and their dedication to helping other people is remarkable and should be better rewarded. It is also vital that young carers get the opportunity to take a break from time to time and are supported to look after their mental health. While many young carers suffer in silence, they should be encouraged to speak out at school and at work about the huge burden they have taken on.

We'd encourage all young carers aged 16 to 18 to apply for the Young Carer Grant, which they can claim each year for up to three consecutive years. If you think you or someone you know could be eligible, please visit mygov.scot/young-carer-grant/how-to-apply for more information.