Emma Tucker from the BANES Carers’ Centre looks at the support that is available for young carers across the region
“Good morning,” says Becca, 10, waking her mum Nicole. “Here’s your codeine and your cup of tea.”
Becca (pictured) is a young carer, one of about 4,000 officially recognised across Bath, North East Somerset and Wiltshire, although the unofficial figure is thought to be far higher. A young carer is a child or young person that helps to look after someone at home, because that person is ill, disabled, managing addiction, or frail.
Becca’s mum has fibromyalgia, a rheumatic condition that causes pain and stiffness, meaning that she often needs Becca’s help to simply get her through the day.
“My mum doesn’t really want to move a lot when it’s hurting, and sometimes I can’t even hug her,” explains Becca. “It’s hard because I have to take on more responsibilities than other kids.”
The Bath & NE Somerset Young Carers, part of the independent charity BaNES Carers’ Centre, is a service that supports around 600 young carers aged under 18, including Becca. There are also special projects for young adult carers aged from 18 to 25. The service works with schools, health and social care services, and other charities to identify and support young carers. Its aim is to shine a spotlight on young carers in the hope that more of them can seek support and be recognised for the additional burdens they carry.
The service offers a range of support including counselling, breaks, support groups and one-to-one support. Its aim is that its outreach work will encourage the community to recognise and identify young carers, as well as young carers themselves, and realise that support is available.
Young Carers Officer Steve Newman explained, “We need to raise awareness of young carers in our community, to ensure they know their rights and understand what support is available. Young carers can be isolated, have trouble making friends or struggle to balance school, sleep, worries and a social life with their caring role, which is why the services we offer are so vital. The young people we work with are really inspiring in the amount that they manage at such a young age.”
Another of those child carers is Alex, a 12-year-old boy who helps to care for his sister. He explained how the support services really help.
“Young carers are forced to grow up quickly by their circumstances, and have to take on more responsibility than other children our age. That’s why we need the service. The team know what we go through every day and can help us. They give us a chance to relax, have a break and enjoy ourselves. Being a young carer can sometimes be very isolating, but the Carers’ Centre helps us meet other kids who understand us, whose ‘normal’ is more like ours.”
Kerry, 19, from Westbury who cares for her brother, didn’t know she was a young carer until she was 12 when social services signposted her to Youth Action Wiltshire’s service.
“I wasn’t even sure I wanted to be assessed by them at first, but they came along, asked lots of questions, and told me I was a carer. That was really weird, because to me it was just something I had always done and I never at any stage resented it.”
That interception changed Kerry’s life. She began to participate in activities with other young carers, including cooking, conservation and residential breaks. This all gave her time to develop herself as a person, provided respite from her caring role and allowed the opportunity to meet other young people in a similar position.
“That was the coolest part of all, to find there was an organisation which really valued caring and brought young carers together.”
Find out more at www.carersinwiltshire.co.uk or call 0800 181 4118.
For Bath & North East Somerset
Find out more at www.banescarerscentre.org.uk or call 0800 0388 885