Recent statistics in Australia reveal that there are approximately 350,000 young carers in Australia and half of these are under the age of eighteen. A young carer is defined as a person under the age of 25 who provides, or intends to provide care, assistance or support to a family member with an illness, disability, or addiction. These young carers provide support in the absence of other available networks and lack of suitable formal care arrangements, and provide care on a continuum ranging from caring about the person to caring for the person including helping with cleaning and tidying through to carrying out basic domestic chores, undertaking intimate, specialised and medical care.

Researchers from Griffith University have partnered with Arafmi Ltd and Little Dreamers to investigate the extent of caring roles of, and support for, young carers in Australia and psycho-social disability and risk-taking behaviours of young carers in Australia.

Led by Professor Kate Hutchings, Centre for Work Organisation and Wellbeing and Dr Katrina Radford, Department of Business Strategy and Innovation, this project also includes team members Associate Professor Neil Harris, Dr Sara McMillan, Dr Maddy Slattery, Dr Nancy Spencer and Professor Amanda Wheeler. The team are excited to conduct a mixed methods study of young carers in Australia.

It is concerning that recent research found that young carers are less likely to complete or do well in secondary school compared with young people who do not have caring responsibilities. While the school engagement of young carers of people with a disability is not significantly different from that of non-carers, the school engagement among young carers of people with a psycho-social disability or addiction to alcohol/drugs is significantly lower; and young carers who themselves have disability report particularly low levels of engagement.

Constraints on education can lead to reduced employment outcomes, resulting in young carers experiencing higher rates of unemployment that affects income as well as their overall health and happiness.

Consequently, more research identifying the reality of barriers and enablers of educational and work participation rates among young carers in Australia is of utmost importance. The project seeks to shape policy discussion in the future.

“We are excited to be embarking on this project that has the potential to shape the future of young carers in Australia”

Professor Kate Hutchings and Dr Katrina Radford