Who is a young carer?
A young carer can be anyone who offers regular and substantial support to a member of their family who has a long term illness, physical disability, mental health problem or who is dependant on drugs or alcohol. Here are some example’s of young carers stories.
Gemma, age 12
Gemma was referred to the Young Carers Service as she cares for her dad who has a physical disability and her mum who has mental health problems. When she first joined the service, Gemma was very shy and reluctant to engage with workers or other young people. Her confidence was low and she was having serious problems at school due to their lack of understanding around her caring role.
As Gemma built up a relationship with the young carer worker through regular 1:1’s they were able to work on her low confidence and self esteem, and she gradually started to attend groups and activities – and really enjoy them! A meeting at school was arranged and she was given the opportunity to tell her teacher about the pressures and responsibilities she had at home and what might help her feel more supported in school. The teacher arranged for other school staff to have some training on young carer issues and an assembly was held to identify any other young carers in the school and tell them about the service.
Gemma still has to care for both her parents at home, and is reluctant to accept help from other services due to poor past experiences. However she now feels confident in confiding in the young carer workers and has built up a strong friendship group with other young carers. She says she doesn’t know where she would be without the young carers service.
Tommy identified himself as a young carer when a Young Carer Worker did an assembly at his school. Tommy has cared for his mum who has had serious mental health problems, since he can remember. Sometimes his mum is unable to get up in the morning due to her medication, so Tommy has to get himself and his two little sisters washed, fed and ready for school, he then takes them to their school before running another mile to his own, by this time he is often late and in trouble.
Tommy said he’d never heard of the term ‘young carer’ before and because he had always had to help out, he just thought of it as normal life. He said, “when I was younger I coped fairly well, I liked being in charge at home but now I have school, homework, friends I’d like to spend time with and things I’d like to do after school but there just isn’t enough time for everything”.
Some of Tommy’s issues were identified through a 1:1 session and the young carer worker referred his mum for a social care assessment. Through this assessment a carer now comes in for an hour each morning to help Tommy with his sisters and encourage his mum to do some chores before everyone gets in from school. Tommy is given the chance to talk about his feelings at regular 1:1 meetings with his young carer worker, he has met new friends at the youth groups and now realises he’s not the only one caring for a parent. Best of all Tommy got to go quad biking, rock climbing and to a theme park this summer, he didn’t have to pay, he had a great time and he got chance to be a child.
Kate’s mum referred her to the young carer service after she fell asleep at school one day because she was so tired. Kate’s mum has arthritis in her knees, legs and spine, she finds it very tough to get around and is in constant pain. In the morning Kate gets herself and her 2 year old sister up, she gets them both dressed and makes their breakfast. She walks to school with her friends mum because it’s too far for her mum to go.
Kate often feels very tired at school and worries how her mum and little sister are coping at home all day. After school she helps with the washing, tidying up, fetching and carrying things and plays with her sister, she rarely has the chance to go out and play with her friends.
The young carer worker arranged with school that Kate could ring home at break and lunch time to check how things were, this has helped her stop worrying as much. She is also having a lot of fun at the young carer youth groups, she has made lots of friends and she goes on all the trips she can. She said, “the trips are so fun, my family can’t get out too much, but at young carers I can do all the things other people get to do with their mum and dad”.
Kate’s mum also feels less guilty and more positive about the future.