Somerset County Council is expecting to consider proposals for a new way of supporting young carers early this summer.
The Council is exploring a potential new approach that should mean better support for more young people, provided with the help of community organisations which can tap into funding that can’t be accessed by the County Council – an approach that’s working successfully in other parts of the country.
In September 2018, the Council’s Cabinet considered a proposal to review and redesign young carers support with a view to improving it by involving community organisations. The decision was deferred so that the possible alternative could be worked-up in detail before any decision is made.
Workshops and events have been taking place with young carers, voluntary organisations and interest groups; and detailed proposals will be brought to Cabinet for consideration when they are ready.
In the meantime, the Young Carers Service support groups and activities will be maintained. This will be the case until Cabinet makes a decision on how support will be provided in the future – including a smooth transfer to any new arrangements.
Councillor Frances Nicholson, Cabinet Member for Children and Families, said: “We understand how vitally important young carers are and how important it is to support them in this role.
“Our aim to is come up with a way of doing things that reaches more young people and offers them better options for support. We’ve seen that basing this around community organisations works really well elsewhere and we want to see if replicating that in Somerset is the best way forward.
“I understand there may be some concerns about what comes next, but I can reassure people that current groups and activities will continue until Cabinet is satisfied that any new approach is viable and right for the County’s young carers, though some of the people organising this support may change as staff move on.”
Young carer is the term for any young person who provides unpaid care for a friend or family member who has an illness or disability.
The Council’s current Young Carers Service organises weekly group meetings in different parts of the county, as well as trips and activities during school holidays. These will be maintained until any alternative arrangements have been agreed by Cabinet and put in place, though some of the people organising this support may change as staff move on.
To free-up capacity in the service, assessments to determine the needs of young carers will be carried out by early help and children’s and adults social care staff, until Cabinet makes a decision about the future of young carers services.
Since September, more than a dozen voluntary organisations attended an event to discuss potential ways forward, and an event has been held to discuss the subject with interest groups representing young carers. Around 60 young carers have also been involved in a workshop to understand what kind of support they most value.
Cllr Nicholson said: “We know that there are many young carers out there who don’t consider themselves to be carers, and the work we’ve done so far underlines that. A key aim for us is to reach out to these young people and make sure they too get the support they need.”