Young Carers in Switzerland
In other countries, the proportion of children, adolescents and young adults responsible for providing care and support lies somewhere between 2 and 4 %. Figures for Switzerland are assumed to be similar.
It is a little-known fact that children, adolescents and young adults also look after members of their families who need care. They often assume significant responsibility for care on a regular basis. This responsibility is something normally associated with adults. The person needing care is usually a parent. However, it may also be a sibling, a grandparent or another relative with a physical, mental or cognitive health issue.
International studies show that young carers (under the age of 18) and young adult carers (18 to 25 years old) are a global phenomenon. In countries for which studies already exist, the proportion of children and adolescents with caring responsibilities is between two and four per cent. Figures for Switzerland are assumed to be similar.
The situation of children, adolescents and young adults under the age of 25 providing care constitutes a research gap. Little is known about the number of people involved, the scope of their responsibilities, or the impact that these responsibilities are having. Nor has there been any exploration of the needs and wishes of the people concerned and their families. The “Young Carers” research programme intends to close this data and research gap for Switzerland. It was launched in 2014 and funded for five to ten years.
Studies reveal the long-term effects on children and young people assuming responsibility for care. For example, an inability to fully participate in schooling may result in poorer educational opportunities. Meanwhile, in Great Britain, the country in which research on young carers originated, awareness of the difficult situation for children, adolescents and young adults providing care has increased. As a result, such adverse effects on schooling are in decline. This positive development allows us to assume that improvements are also possible in Switzerland for children, adolescents and young adults with care responsibilities.
Federal Council report
At a meeting held on 5 December 2014, as part of its “Health2020” health policy priorities, the Federal Council approved the “Report on supporting people looking after and caring for relatives”. The Federal Council makes it clear that the care and support of sick family members by relatives will become even more important in future, on account of demographic developments. In particular, this is because the Swiss healthcare system lacks the necessary personnel and money to be able to cover the increasing requirement with professional care. The Federal Council has therefore initiated various measures to support relatives and to promote the reconciliation of caring for relatives with work.
Postulation on children providing care
On 2 September 2015, the Federal Council expressed its view on a postulation by CVP National Councillor Barbara Schmid-Federer. She suggested a report be produced on the situation regarding minors caring for sick or disabled parents. This subject is actually mentioned in the report published on 5 December 2014. However, it is not elaborated. The Federal Council rejected the postulation, giving the reason that, as part of implementing the action plan for the support of relatives providing care and support, it would pay particular attention to the specific requirements of children and young people providing care and support