University of Leicester
2023CokerSPHD.pdf (2.32 MB)

Young Carers in Public Child Law Proceedings: A Children’s Rights Perspective

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posted on 2023-10-03, 09:59 authored by Stephanie S. Coker

This thesis focuses on children with caring responsibilities, known as young carers, in public child law proceedings. The thesis examines how English law and judges respond to young carers, in particular under Part IV of the Children Act 1989. It is particularly concerned with how children’s caring responsibilities in domestic child protection law might be considered as harmful, and the way in which judges and social work practitioners should respond to young carers in the child protection context. Through examining case law in child protection proceedings, the thesis demonstrates that children’s caring responsibilities can be a concern raised by local authorities in support of an application for care order or supervision order under section 31(2) of the Children Act as the child is suffering or is likely to suffer significant harm. Given the seriousness of child protection proceedings, the thesis argues that it is crucial to have specific guidance that can be drawn upon by judges and social workers when engaging with young carers in this context.

The thesis puts forward guidance in the form of indicators that are derived from two main strands: international children’s rights law, and the sociological research on young carers including research from Saul Becker. The guidance can be utilised in two ways. First, the indicators can be used to enhance the existing legal response by judges, and by social workers to assess whether children’s caring responsibilities amount to significant harm under section 31(2) of the Children Act prior to the commencement of proceedings. Second, the indicators can also be used in interpreting Part III of the Children Act, to differentiate between caring that is appropriate from caring that is ‘inappropriate’. It is argued that having such guidance is important to support the judges in their decision-making capacity when interpreting the concept of significant harm when young carers appear before the family court. It is also important to develop guidance because they can help prevent young carers and their circumstances under Part III of the Children Act escalating to Part IV, and eventually court proceedings. Overall, it is argued that while children having caring responsibilities is not harmful per se, guidance is needed to ensure that it is not harmful to their development as understood from a children’s rights perspective.



Eugenia Caracciolo Di Torella; Katherine Wade

Date of award


Author affiliation

Leicester Law School

Awarding institution

University of Leicester

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

Qualification name

  • PhD



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