Covid Scotland: Young carers made poorer by coronavirus, finds report

Young carers in Scotland report being pushed further into poverty as a result of the Covid pandemic, according to a new report by the University of the West of Scotland and Oxfam.

The research by the charity and university found young carers and their families’ financial difficulties were exacerbated over the past year, with half of those surveyed saying they had been left with no choice but to use food banks.

The report found children aged 13 to 17 who were already caring for a loved one were forced to take on extra financial responsibilities to help make ends meet or put in more hours of caring to cover the lack of support services available during the pandemic.

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It found the financial peril facing young carers came as a result of family members being made redundant, having to work fewer hours, or a reduction in their income due to the furlough scheme.

Dr Chloe Maclean, lecturer in social sciences and a co-author of the report, said: “Covid-19 has created challenges for many people. However, young carers have had a particularly difficult time.

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“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.”

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Some of the young carers who participated in the research said they had to take on extra paid work during the pandemic to address income gaps, forcing them to balance it with care and schoolwork.

While additional measures have been introduced to support those providing unpaid care in Scotland, the research suggests these are insufficient.

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As a result the report makes a series of recommendations to increase specific financial and other support to young carers, while increasing the overall incomes of households in which someone requires care.

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.

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“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.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said it had committed an extra £45 million to councils for the Scottish Welfare Fund, introduced legislation to double the Carer’s Allowance Supplement and provided a Young Carer Grant of £308.15 per year to carers aged 16-18.

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The spokesperson also pointed to the Scottish Child Payment providing low-income families with children under six up to £520 a year.

“We know that this pandemic has had a significant impact on young carers physically, emotionally and mentally, and are doing all we can to support them,” the spokesperson said.

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