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Hospitals send patients home to be cared for by children as young as four

Hospitals are sending patients home into the sole care of young children, according to a Barnardo’s investigation.

It says kids as young as four are looking after their sick parents.

Chief executive Javed Khan said: “Many health professionals simply treat the person in front of them rather than ask questions about who’s caring for them when they go home. Caring can take a huge toll on children’s wellbeing and future chances.”

There are nearly 700,000 young carers in the UK, according to stats from the BBC and Nottingham University.

Barnardo’s believes numbers have increased as more families struggle for support because of cuts. Their average age is 12 and some work more than 30 hours a week, cooking, cleaning and shopping.

Barnardo’s survey of young carers:

  • Two-thirds said they began caring while still in primary school and one in eight started aged five.
  • 22 per cent were identified and referred by a parent, 15 per cent by a teacher, 15 per cent by a social worker and only five per cent by a GP.
  • 45 per cent support their siblings. Over 80 per care for their mum.
  • 90 per cent were caring for someone with a physical disability, a mental health issue or a long-term health issue.
  • Over 50 per cent said their emotional health and wellbeing had been affected.
  • 56 per cent said it made them anxious and worried.
  • 67 per cent said caring made them tired in class.
  • Over 25 per cent said they performed over 30 hours of tasks a week.
  • 50 per cent said caring prevented a university place or dropping out of a course.

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