The Children’s Society have published the Key Principles of Practice which, are intended to be used along side legislation and guidance already in place and, to support agencies to respond to the recommendations of national policy that affect young carers and their families in ways that are sensitive to their needs.  Using the Key Principles of Practice will help to ensure the best use of resources and promote whole family working.  They also enable practitioners to deliver practice based on the 5 aims of Every Child Matters.

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The Principles are:

  1. Children’s welfare should be promoted and safeguarded by working towards the prevention of any child undertaking inappropriate levels of care and responsibility for any family member.
  2. The key to change is the development of a whole family approach and for all agencies to work together, including children’s and adults’ services, to offer co-ordinated assessments and services to the child and the whole family.
  3. Young carer and their families are the experts on their own lives and as such must be fully informed and involved in the development and delivery of support services.
  4. Young carers will have the same access to education and career choices as their peers.
  5. It is essential to continue to raise awareness of young carers and to support and influence change effectively. Work with young carers and their families must be monitored and evaluated regularly.
  6. Local young carers projects or other targeted services should be available to provide safe, quality support to those children who continue to be affected by any caring role within their family.

It is important to recognise that:

  • Young carers may be hidden and there is a need to develop pro-active practice that will enable families to feel able to ask for support.
  • The reasons that children undertake inappropriate levels of care may be complex and that to resolve them may require a multi-faceted approach to resolve.
  • Procedures need to be in place so that the same principles are followed whatever route is taken to gain access to an assessment and to other services.  This will require inter-agency collaboration and planning at both strategic and service provision levels.
  • Timely effective assessments of both the person who needs care and the whole family could prevent a child undertaking inappropriate levels of care in the first place.

When a referral is made for a child who is caring, consider:

  • Is the family member for whom they are caring already receiving services from us?
  • Is the child’s school involved or aware of what is happening (family situation?) A ‘young carer’ assessment should trigger an assessment or review of the person who needs care.

When a referral is made for an adult or child with a disability or illness, consider:

  • Is there a child in the family who may be helping to provide care?
  • Have they been offered an assessment?
  • What can be offered to help the whole family?
  • Does the parent need support in their parenting role?

There may be differences of view between children and parents about appropriate levels of care.  Such differences may be out in the open or concealed.  The resolution of such tensions will require good quality joint work between adult and children’s social services as well as co-operation from schools and health care workers.  This work should include direct work with the young carer to understand his or her perspective and opinions.  (Framework for the Assessment of Children in Need and their Families).