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Overwhelmed young carers deserve more in post-Covid future, Prof Saul Becker tells Andrew Marr

Broadcaster Andrew Marr (left) interviewing Professor Saul Becker

Young carers have been overwhelmed by the increased demands created by the global pandemic and lockdown, Professor Saul Becker has told broadcaster Andrew Marr.

In a film made by Carers Trust, the University of Sussex’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Provost, Professor Saul Becker, discussed the impact that the past seven months of coronavirus had had on the young caring community and on family carers in general.

Prof Becker told Mr Marr in a 25-minute interview that a Carers Trust survey had revealed that the majority of young carers felt overwhelmed by the new pressures of having to care in a lockdown situation and nearly half said that they were unable to take a real break from caring.

He added: “This has been particularly difficult time for young carers and their families. What we know from a number of studies is that young carers are caring for family members who have a heightened vulnerability to Covid-19 because of their underlying health problems.

“Being in lockdown has certainly meant that young carers have had to take on even more caring. The Carers Trust survey, literally a couple of months ago, found that six out of ten of those young carers were spending more time caring than before the pandemic and indeed, some said that it was an additional 30 hours or more a week that they were now having to provide care.”

Both Saul Becker and Andrew Marr touched on their personal experiences with care during the discussion, with Prof Becker detailing how as a young boy he cared for his grandmother who had Parkinson’s and how this experience helped to shape and influence his life, values and choice of profession.

Mr Marr said his personal experience of care came “embarrassingly late in life”; first through the care his father-in-law Lord Ashley received in his later years and then the support that the journalist himself received in the long recuperation from a severe stroke eight years ago.

Prof Becker, regarded as the world leader for research and policy on young carers, told Mr Marr that he hoped the long-lasting impact of the pandemic would pave the way ahead for a significant and permanent change in the way young carers received support.

He said: “Whenever this pandemic is over, we know that Covid-19 is not going to be gone forever. And so we have to adapt to a changing society, a changing economy. And so one of the things that Carers Trust partners will need to do is rethink how will they offer support and what kinds of services will they provide, because carers’ and young carers’ expectations have changed through these experiences.

“We will need to reconfigure and reconceptualise the services that we offer to carers, and across our society and economy as a blended experience, which combines online with real life interactions.”

Prof Becker also spoke of his hope that young carers and family carers would have greater political acknowledgement and consideration in the future and that politicians at all levels would push for greater investment in carers and to develop services that supported them.

He added: “We need to treat the spend on carers, not as a cost, but as an investment. It’s an investment in an infrastructure, in a hidden army of people, some of whom are very young, and some of whom are older, and who are effectively keeping our economy and our society going.

“It is very much a call to arms, for civic society to engage with local and public authorities and with the private sector to deliver a sea change in the interest of family carers and with young carers.”

Watch the full interview.

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By: Neil Vowles
Last updated: Thursday, 15 October 2020

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