Young carers and care workers on the night shift need our support | Letters

Lesley Legge raises the plight of young carers, Alison Middleton and Austen Lynch defend sleep-in carers

Your article points to the degree to which the work and sacrifices of adult carers are taken for granted by the state (Number of unpaid family carers up by a million in 10 years, 16 July), but makes no mention of the work and sacrifice of young carers who also undertake sometimes harrowing support care for family members. The support for these vulnerable young people is provided overwhelmingly by charities, where they exist. They are at the whim of a postcode lottery, with seemingly a complete absence of any form of government support for young carers made worse by their cutting of grants to local government.

The support of more than 550 of these young people in southern Oxfordshire relies on a charity that provides them with respite care on day trips and activities where they can be themselves with others who understand, emotional support away from their caring obligations, and the ability to share problems with others. Teachers and others with whom they are in daily contact often have no idea that the child who is sleepy in class has been up half the night helping to care for a sibling or other family member or lying awake worrying what the next day will bring. It is estimated that every classroom contains at least two children who are young carers. More young carers are registering with us every week. So let’s not forget the needs of these young folk when we calculate just how much we need to spend on making the system fairer for all ages.
Lesley Legge
Trustee, Be Free Young Carers

• As a care worker, I appreciate Polly Toynbee’s outrage on behalf of night care workers who are now denied a decent wage for sleep-in duties, due to the recent ruling by the court of appeal (Opinion, 17 July).

An even more serious threat to the welfare of the of both the recipients and providers of care may be looming on the horizon. Domiciliary care is now mainly provided through private care agencies, rather than local authorities. These agencies charge a hefty fee for their services on top of the care workers’ wages, leaving the elderly and their families struggling to meet the costs. This is a sector ripe for exploitation by the gig economy.
Alison Middleton

• A court of appeal deems that care workers “sleeping” in for night shifts are no longer to be described as “working” but rather as being “available for work”. What? In the way that fire crews staffing a fire station are not “working” or armed-service personnel not actually engaged in fighting enemy combatants are “available for work”?
Austen Lynch
Garstang, Lancashire

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