BY LAUREN CODLING
AN Asian teenager has spoken of the demands on her time as a young carer and student, as a new report showed that carers from an ethnic background are more likely to be isolated from support services and are often relied upon to translate between family members and doctors.
Neha Lathia is a young carer from Leicester. She and her two siblings, Priyanka and Dev, care for their parents after illnesses have left them unable to work.
Their father Jagruti suffers from a serious heart condition which has left him barely able to walk while their mother Jayanti suffered a debilitating stroke which has left her legs paralysed.
Although both Jagruti and Jayanti can speak English, it is not their first language.
Neha, 19, said she has to usually translate at most hospital appointments.
“There’s never been a translator at the hospital, so I have to be there to do it,” she said. “And sometimes a word simply doesn’t exist in Gujarati, so I have to try and find another word or explain some other way.”
The Caring Alone report, released last week, by children’s charity Barnardo’s showed that BAME young carers can suffer additional stress as they have to interpret between their parents and medical staff.
As some parents do not wish to disclose personal details of their health conditions, the child can sometimes not fully understand the issue, which can lead to misdiagnosis and increased anxiety.
The research, which is based on interviews with BAME young carers and practitioners, also found families were less likely to engage with support services as there remains a “deep mistrust of social services or authorities”.
Neha, then 17, was studying for her A-Levels when both parents fell ill.
Since then, the three siblings had to ensure they were able to provide support for their parents, as well as perform everyday chores such as paying bills, cooking and cleaning.
The routine can be demanding for Neha, especially when she has to juggle her college work.
“It has been difficult,” she admitted. “There’s a lot of remembering, making sure that everything gets done on time, especially that the medication is right and on time, but you get used to it and it becomes part of your daily routine.”
Based on the latest census figures, it is estimated that there are around 376,000 young adult carers in the UK aged 16–25. In Leicester, around 22 per cent of young carers are Asian.
Javed Khan, Barnardo’s CEO, stressed that BAME young carers were often “hidden” and there was an urgent need to break down barriers.
According to research by the Children’s Society, young carers are 1.5 times as likely to be from BAME communities, and twice as likely to not speak English as a first language.
Khan remarked on the impact of being a young carer could have on a child, claiming it could affect their education and health.
“Many young carers already have it tough, balancing cooking, cleaning, washing, shopping, and helping to look after siblings, alongside trying to keep up with their school work,” he said. “But young carers from some BAME communities are even less likely to access support, due partly to the stigma attached to asking for help.”
The charity has recommended that the NHS should work with communities to tackle stigma within BAME communities related to mental illness and special needs.
They also proposed that translators should be available for patient who do not speak English, so that young carers are not expected to translate for a relative.
“It’s not right that BAME young carers often have to interpret complicated medical information for a loved one, which can lead to misdiagnosis and cause additional stress,” Khan added.
In response to the report, an NHS England spokesperson said: “Young BAME carers with responsibilities should not be facing additional stresses or barriers to practical support. The
NHS is working with the local voluntary sector, CCGs, GPs and local authorities to identify young carers and ensure they have access to support.”