THE challenges of the past two years have highlighted the incredible caring spirit of our region.

We know that for families who have young people with caring responsibilities and might have needed to shield during the pandemic, the pressures have greatly increased.

Through Barnardo’s Young Carers' services run across the North West we help to reduce the burden of caring on children, by giving them opportunities to take a break and enjoy their childhood, but we know there are many more young carers out there who we are sadly not reaching.

Research estimates there are more than 800,000 young carers in the UK and recent figures show that 180,000 children in England who care for an ill or disabled relative are missing out on support because they are unknown to their local authority.

At Barnardo’s we are particularly concerned the Government's proposed health reforms could have the unintended consequences of weakening protections for young carers.

Adults with extremely complex health and care needs are already being discharged from hospital into the care of children.

This is only set to get worse if the changes in the Health and Care Bill come into effect.

Caring for loved ones is something that many young carers are incredibly proud to do but children must never be expected to shoulder the burden of care for their family members on their own.

As a society we must protect children from taking on too much responsibility at a young age, and from sacrificing their education, or physical and mental health.

Parliament must recognise the needs of children in the Health and Care Bill and ensure young carers can be identified by healthcare professionals and supported by local authorities.

Lynn Perry MBE, interim Co-CEO at Barnardo’s