Hidden carers in Taiwan: Understanding young carers

Young carers are children and young people under the age of 18 who provide care to another family member who is suffering from a long-term illness or disability. Young carers experience a double jeopardy owing to their dual role as carers and as children. To date, studies in Taiwan on the issue of care-giving have largely concentrated on the situation of adult carers, female care-givers in particular. As such, little attention has been paid to the daily experiences of young carers. However, involvement in caring can have adverse influences on a child or young person's physical and emotional development. In addition, the impact of caring activities on young caregivers differs from that on adult carers. The caring tasks and experiences involved also distinguish young carers from other non-caring children and young people. These issues pose a challenge to the current welfare system: to what extent has state policy been in concordance with young carers' needs?
Drawing upon qualitative interviews with 22 children and young people who have had the experience of providing care to another family member, this article explores the everyday practices of young carers with regard to what it is like to be a carer, as well as examines their needs and the corresponding welfare strategies required. This research concludes by proposing some policy recommendations. Firstly, schools should be placed as essential points to identify young carers. Secondly, young carers should be able to exercise the right to ask for their needs to be assessed and fulfilled. Thirdly, the 'whole family' approach could be adopted when working with young carers. Fourthly, relevant organizations could address the needs of young carers and to coordinate each aspect of professional intervention. Finally, a further consideration is required to form the scope of young carers.