youngmindsA new amendment to The Children and Families Bill is being described by charities as "a landmark change in the law which signals the start of a new era of support for 160,000 children in England caring for their parents, siblings and family members".

For too long, young carers have been slipping through the net between children’s and adult’s support services – hidden from view of the very authorities there to help them, according to the National Young Carers Coalition (NYCC).

Following an announcement by Education Secretary Michael Gove MP the Bill has changed to ensure that when a child is identified as a young carer, the needs of everyone in the family will be considered.

This will trigger both children’s and adults support services into action – assessing why a child is caring, what needs to change and what would help the family to prevent children from taking on this responsibility in the first place.

Dr Moira Fraser, Chair of the NYCC, said: "We have been campaigning for over a year for the government to change the law for young carers so that they have stronger rights to assessment and support and protection from inappropriate caring through assessment and support of the whole family.

"We are delighted that the Secretary of State has put forward this proposed amendment and indicated that the Care Bill will also protect young carers. Not only will these changes help professionals to understand what they need to do, they have potential to transform the lives of some our most vulnerable children and young people by helping them and their family when they most need it."

Census data released earlier this year showed 166,363 children in England are caring for their parents, siblings and family members, up by a fifth since 2001.

Despite this being the first official statistic to be published in ten years, many analysts believe that this is only the tip of the iceberg within many young carers remaining 'hidden' from the view of authorities.

A recent report by The Children’s Society’s suggested that young carers are lagging behind in school and missing out on their childhoods because of the demands placed on them.

Children’s Society’s Chief Executive Matthew Reed added: "This is an historic moment for children who have the responsibility of looking after their parents, siblings and family members. We applaud the government for taking a huge leap to support often incredibly vulnerable young carers who are slipping through the net, undetected by the support services they desperately need.

"This milestone signals the start of a new era of support for young carers. We know that caring can cost children dearly. As the Secretary of State has made clear today, our Hidden from View analysis has been a driving force behind this.

"It reveals that young carers are missing out on their childhoods and school, gaining fewer qualifications and job opportunities and therefore are less likely to earn a decent living in the future. All children must be allowed to thrive and enjoy their childhood."