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The experiences and impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on young carers: practice implications and planning for future health emergencies

Hayes, D; Fancourt, D; Burton, A; (2024) The experiences and impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on young carers: practice implications and planning for future health emergencies. Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Mental Health , 18 , Article 2. 10.1186/s13034-023-00697-6. Green open access

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Abstract

Background: Young carers are children or young people aged up to 25 years old who undertake unpaid caring responsibilities for a friend or family member. Young carers faced significant challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. We explored the impact of the pandemic and associated restrictions on mental health, wellbeing and access to support in young carers in the United Kingdom (UK) to understand how to improve services, as well as support this population in future health emergencies.// Method: We conducted 22 qualitative semi-structured interviews from May to November 2021 with 14 young carers and eight staff working in organisations that supported them. Interviews took place remotely over video or telephone call and explored participant experiences of the pandemic and its impact on their health, wellbeing and caring responsibilities. We used reflexive thematic analysis to analyse interview transcripts.// Results: We identified four overarching themes pertaining to the impact of the pandemic and associated restrictions on mental health, wellbeing and access to support in young carers in the UK: (1) challenges in protecting loved ones from the virus, (2) changes to and loss of routine, (3) reduced access to pre-pandemic informal and formal support structures and (4) better understanding of inner resilience and goals. Many participants struggled with their mental health and wellbeing as a result of pandemic related restrictions which impacted on support structures for themselves and the individual they cared for. However, positive impacts pertained to additional support provided by local authority and third sector organisations.// Conclusions: Our findings highlight some of the changes that affected young carers during the COVID-19 pandemic. The impact of changes to routine and a reduction in pre-pandemic support were the greatest concerns reported by participants in this study. The additional support provided by local authority and third sector organisations during social restrictions suggests such organisations could play a greater role in supporting this population going forward and that schools and Governments may wish to put in additional strategies and provisions to protect young carers in the future.

Type: Article
Title: The experiences and impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on young carers: practice implications and planning for future health emergencies
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1186/s13034-023-00697-6
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1186/s13034-023-00697-6
Language: English
Additional information: © The Author(s), 2024. This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver (http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated in a credit line to the data.
Keywords: Mental health, Wellbeing, COVID-19, Qualitative, Young carers, Health emergencies
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences > Institute of Epidemiology and Health
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences > Institute of Epidemiology and Health > Behavioural Science and Health
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10185177
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