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Research aims to help more than 3,000 young carers

Resource type: News

The Irish Times |

NUI Galway is an Atlantic grantee.

by LORNA SIGGINS Western Correspondent

MORE THAN 3,000 Irish teenagers between the ages of 15 and 17 are caring for parents or relatives, according to recent Census figures.

However, new research commissioned from NUI Galway (NUIG) by the Minister of State for Children and Youth Affairs aims to ascertain just how many young people are taking on this responsibility.

The research aims to examine the impact that providing care to a family member has on a young person’s life. It will also look at ways of providing better support for such young people in this context.

Currently, there are no accurate data on how many young people care for a family member or members, according to Dr Allyn Fives, who is part of the research team at NUIG’s child and family research centre.

“While the most recent Census tells us that approximately 3,000 young people between the ages of 15 and 17 are carers, it does not give a figure for the many young people below that age group who are caring,” Dr Fives said. “Also, very little is known about their day-to-day experiences, or the kinds of help and assistance that would benefit them,” he said.

“This is partly because not many studies have focused on the experiences of young carers in Ireland, and also because there is a wide variety of caring situations and experiences,” Dr Fives said.

The research team is keen to interview children and young people between five and 17 years of age who provide care in the home to a relative or relatives who have a disability or who are ill.

It has already begun talking to young people fulfilling this role about their experiences, and stresses that all information will be treated confidentially.

Interviews will be conducted according to strict ethical guidelines, it says.

“Young carers are asked to do different kinds of tasks, they have different levels of responsibility, and their caring has different impacts on other parts of their lives, including school work, sports and other recreational activities, and their friendships and family life,” Dr Fives said.

“These young people contribute so much to their families that we hope this research will show us how they themselves can be supported in their vital role.”

NUIG’s child and family research centre is based within the university’s school of political science and sociology.

The centre was initiated officially in 2007 with significant support from Atlantic Philanthropies.

It has already gained international recognition for its expertise in the development and testing of educational models, such as youth mentoring. Its director, Prof Pat Dolan, holds the first UNESCO-sponsored post in a university in the State – in children, youth and civic engagement.

Dr Fives said that young people willing to be interviewed in confidence for the research need give up no more than an hour of their time, and the interview can be conducted at a location most suitable to them.

He and his colleagues can be contacted at NUIG’s Child and Family Research Centre at tel: 091-495732 or e-mail

© 2009 The Irish Times

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