Young carers and the personal sacrifices they make to support family members living with a disability or chronic illness, was raised in State Parliament this week by Local Member of Parliament Tony Piccolo as part of Carers Week.
Speaking in State Parliament Mr Piccolo highlighted that there are about 30,500 young carers in South Australia.
Mr Piccolo said the young carer is essentially a person between the age of five and 25 whose life is impacted by the care needs of someone who experiences a chronic or long-term illness, physical or intellectual disability, mental illness, an alcohol or drug problem or has dementia or is frail or aged.
“When you look at carers between five and 25, to know that in our community there are children as young as five caring for another person in their family really does weigh heavily on the sort of life, they will live themselves,” said Mr Piccolo.
“The young carer might be caring for a parent, a sibling, in some cases their own child, a grandparent, another relative or maybe even a close friend. The role each carer provides varies from carer to carer, depending on the needs of the person they are caring for.”
“The work young carers provide can range from emotional support to the very practical support of paying accounts and bills for the person who needs the support, and in some cases personal needs. As you can see from the wide range of activities that these young carers perform, it can be quite challenging for them, both emotionally and physically, and they do miss out on quite a bit in life because of this work.”
Mr Piccolo also praised the work that organisations like Carers and Disability Link play in supporting young carers in our community.
Emily Ritchie, a support worker for young carers with Carers and Disability Link, spoke with local people in Gawler during Carers Week about the services available for young carers.
Mr Piccolo told Parliament that to support young carers, Carers' and Disability Link has created young carer support groups to provide activities for young carers where they can get together and not only share experiences but get support through their peers. They provide outings, information, workshops, projects and peer support.
“This is designed to ensure that children or young people can live, as much as possible, a normal life, in other words, experience the things that they should be experiencing day to day but for their role as a carer,” said Mr Piccolo.
“The reality of being a young carer does impose on your time to do things at school or outside of school or, if you are just out of school, to do things with friends, even the capacity to be able to go and work.”
To put into context, the work young carers and carers provide in our community, it is estimated there are 2.65 million unpaid carers in our community across Australia.
If we were to pay for the service provided, it would cost about $77.9 billion or $1.5 billion a week. In addition to the cost to the community, the cost to individual people in our community would be much greater if they did not have this emotional and other support.