If there is no one to listen, calls for help in the digital age often come by email or Whatsapp. There are a number of such calls for help in Lana Rebhan’s mailbox. They come from young people who have visited the website of the 16-year-olds. Young people who feel like you: They are responsible for caring for relatives, preparing the food, accompanying them to the hospital, listening to them when the seriously ill adults themselves don’t know what to do next. So too Lea (Name changed). She wrote Lana: “I experienced the care situation at home as very stressful and helpless. In the end I had to leave school, even though I was struggling to continue.”
In view of her private experience, the employment agency advised Lea to train in nursing. Mind you, the counselor at the employment agency meant well to her. How could he have guessed what his advice did to Leah? “To me, it was like recommending an abused child to work as a prostitute,” she wrote. “With the term care they simply associate too many negative experiences and feelings,” Lana Rebhan quoted in the state parliament on Monday from Lea’s posting.
For the young people from Bad Königshofen in the Rhön-Grabfeld district, this is the second appearance in the Maximilianeum. Even before her first appearance, she was offering tips online at www.young-carers.de for young people who are just like you. During the first visit, she made a deep impression on the social welfare committee when she made clear the plight of young people in her have to look after relatives at a young age. That was in April of last year, and Lana was still 14 years old at the time – one of around 35,400 young people in the Free State who have to grow up to support their families long before their time. Ralph Knüttel, member of the regional board of the Johanniter in Lower Franconia, who has campaigned for the interests of young carers for years, estimates that the number of those affected is actually much higher.
Since Lana’s first appearance in the Bavarian state parliament, not much has happened on a political level that could help young people like Lena. The Landtag Greens, who invited the 14-year-old in April 2019 as an expert on the concerns of so-called young carers, were only able to assert one claim: The Ministry of Health prepared a report on existing support offers.
According to the assessment of the social politician of the Greens, Kerstin Celina, this report turns out to be more than sobering, as it says: Half of the specialist agencies surveyed stated that they “do not have any special advice and support offers for young carers”. Nevertheless, according to the Ministry of Health, the young carers – according to the German translation for Young Carer – in Bavaria have “a large and sufficient number of different advice and support options”. However, according to the report, it should also be noted that the available advice and support services are used very little by those affected. The ministry identified “helplessness, fear and shame, a family-related ban on speaking and the taboo on the subject” as the reasons for this.
From the point of view of the Landtag Greens, however, this falls far too short. The existing counseling services are simply not tailored to the needs of young carers. And that begins with the search for spiritual support. “If there is a child and adolescent psychologist in the area, the first contact on the phone usually ends when the children and adolescents are the first to be asked about their health insurance,” said Celina during the press conference. With her parliamentary group colleagues, the social policy spokeswoman for the Greens has now worked out eight proposals that should lead to offers of help that are actually tailored to young carers. It begins with the state government having to start making the problems of these young people known to a broader public. It is about “a culture of looking”.
But it is more important that Bavaria helps to relieve the young people in everyday life: It starts with the provision of psychological help, which should be accessible to the young carers without high thresholds. In some cases, this could save lives, emphasized Lana Rebhan. She reported another call for help that reached her digitally: “Jasmin scratches herself and comes back to school after attempting suicide. Because almost all teachers do not know the term young carer, she had to explain to each teacher individually that her parents are sick and she wanted to kill herself because of all the problems. ” The call for help came from a girl whose parents are mentally ill.