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Thousands of young Australians take on caring roles

Putting a kettle with vegetables in the stove. School homework on independence. Source: Getty

Family life has shifted dramatically during the coronavirus pandemic with extra mental health challenges on top of balancing work and home duties. Thousands of young Australians aged between 12 and 25 years are in some kind of caring role for a friend or family member but the task is being made all the more difficult amidst the backdrop of a global pandemic.

Extra pressures, coupled with COVID-19 lockdowns and feelings of isolation, have put the focus on family dynamics for parents and carers.

Kellie King, who lives in Shepparton in regional Victoria, cares for her daughter who has an acquired brain injury and a grandson with autism. She says she reached a crisis point last year when she was not coping with being a carer and sought help from the service, Carer Gateway.

"Time has been a real challenge. Like I find it really hard sometimes to find a real balance between me time and caring time. Financially it has been challenging. Like I have gone from you know six-figure type employment down to having to survive at times on carers pension which is challenging."

Vicki Down is the State Manager of Carer Gateway, which is designed by carers and she says there is a big demand for emotional support.

"COVID-19 caused a lot of stress for carers as you can imagine. Carers were receiving in-home respite and support in the community prior to COVID-19 and when COVID hit all of that sort of stopped. Carers were really concerned about letting anyone into their homes to provide any sort of support."

Some estimates suggest there are two young carers in each classroom, with Carer Gateway reporting that some carers are even primary school age. These young Australians taking on an unpaid carer role are having to step up to tasks beyond their years.

It's estimated 235 000 Australians under 25, including some as young as 12 are in some type of caring role, helping a relative or friend.

This group is eligible for grants to support education costs to ensure they do not miss out on opportunities for their future.

Carers Australia CEO Liz Callaghan says many young people are taking up extra caring duties because of coronavirus but they could be at risk.

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