Young carers for AIDS-ill parents: social, health and educational impacts (2013)

DSPI PI: Lucie Cluver

Funded by: Economic and Social Research Council, 2010-2013

This project marked the beginning of the Young Carer's project. Initial description:

Children who act as young carers for their AIDS-unwell parents or guardians are potentially highly vulnerable. They provide both domestic and emotional support, and often also need to provide intimate and medical care. However, the impact of being a young carer on children's wellbeing has not been widely investigated.

The 'Young Carers Project' is a collaboration between the University of Oxford, NGOs, and the South African Government, which aims to examine the impact of being a young carer on children's well-being. Face to face interviews (using measures validated in South African samples) will be conducted with approximately 3000 children (aged between10 and 18 years) in two South African provinces (the Western Cape and Mpumalanga). Children will be sampled from both rural and urban areas and data will be used to explore the mental health, physical health, educational, and social outcomes associated with being a young carer. Longitudinal follow up will investigate potential mechanisms through which caring for an unwell parent or guardian may impact upon child wellbeing.

The research will be conducted in close collaboration with the South African Government and NGOs, and findings from the study will be used to inform social policy decisions.

Snapshot of impact:

Influencing policy and children’s lives

The project is playing a vital role in the lives of many of the children who participate (see the video and read more on the project website: Most crucially, it is also having an impact on policies that affect the lives of orphans and children who care for family members who have AIDS. The Young Carers researchers give regular updates to the South African Government and to NGOs such as USAID, UNICEF and Child Welfare South Africa.

The project’s initial findings and advocacy have contributed to a number of South African National and Provincial Government policies and plans, including:

  • The National Action Plan for Children Affected by HIV and AIDS
  • PSS guidelines for Home & Community-Based Caregiver
  • Lifeskills programme for Youth-Headed Households
  • National Schools Nutrition Programme
  • Support groups for AIDS-affected children
  • National Schools Safety Policy
  • National Strategic Plan for HIV and AIDS and TB 2012–16

The project’s findings have also been used to inform the Southern African Development Community Minimum Package of Services for Orphans and Vulnerable Children; the Government of Lesotho’s Review of Services for AIDS-affected Children; UNICEF’s HIV-sensitive Social Protection Plans; Save the Children’s White Paper on Child Protection in the context of HIV and AIDS; and documents and guidelines issued by WHO and USAID.