"It has been fun. Super-duper fantastic": Findings from a Danish respite programme to support young carers

Health Soc Care Community. 2020 Jan;28(1):100-109. doi: 10.1111/hsc.12844. Epub 2019 Sep 2.


Awareness of young carers' experiences and needs is low on governmental and societal levels in Denmark. This article presents findings from the first evaluation of a Danish respite programme, the Buddy Programme, which aims to provide support to young carers aged 5-15 years who experience serious, chronic or mental health problems and/or death of a parent or sibling. Over a four-six month period, volunteer students from University College Copenhagen offer young carers the opportunity of respite through participating in ordinary activities such as play and sports. In 2017-2018, based on a child-centred approach, we conducted a qualitative study with interviews focusing on how the Buddy programme affected the children. The interviews took place at programme start, halfway through, and after completion with 22 children and 21 parents, as well as single interviews with 20 Buddies assigned to families after completion. Three main themes were identified: (1) the Buddy programme as an activity, (2) how the Buddy Programme affected the children and (3) ending the Buddy programme and wanting to continue the friendship. Our findings emphasise the importance of fun and cosy activities that provide children with respite from the serious concerns that otherwise fill the lives of young carers. Being with a Buddy created a free space, allowing children to play undisturbed and to temporarily keep concerns and a guilty conscience at a distance. By offering friendship, Buddies provided opportunities for young carers to feel special, be seen, acknowledged and taken seriously as a child with valid and specific needs and interests. Our findings may help increase awareness of the needs and interests of young carers on governmental and societal levels.

Keywords: Denmark; child-centred approach; playful play; respite programme; young carers.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Caregivers / psychology*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Chronic Disease / epidemiology*
  • Denmark
  • Emotions
  • Family
  • Female
  • Guilt
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Qualitative Research
  • Respite Care / psychology*
  • Sports