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Young carers are ‘heroes with capes that can’t be seen’

People, Health and Care
09:00, Thursday, 11th June 2020

This Carers Week (8 to 14 June), North Lincolnshire Council is celebrating the role young carers play in supporting their loved ones.

Carers Week is an annual campaign to raise awareness of caring, highlight the challenges unpaid carers face and recognise the contribution they make to families and communities. This year’s theme is ‘Making caring visible’.

It also helps people who don’t think of themselves as having caring responsibilities to identify as carers and enable them to get the help they need at the right time in the right way.

The coronavirus outbreak has been a challenging time for carers and their families, ensuring that they all keep safe and well, but they have all found ways of coping and supporting each other.

The council is committed to supporting carers of any age and provide advice and guidance for all carers if they need it.

Caring can be a hugely rewarding experience but carers often find it difficult balancing the needs of love ones with their own wellbeing.

There are 6.5 million carers and 700,000 young carers in the UK. In North Lincolnshire there are approximately 19,000 carers; of those there are around 90 registered young carers between the ages of five and 18.

A carer is someone who helps another person in their day to day life. This is usually a relative or friend. It is not the same as someone who provides care professionally or through a voluntary organisation.

Being a young carer often means looking after a family member who has an illness, disability or is drug/alcohol dependent.

Young carers are required to offer care and support above and beyond what is typical for their age. Tasks may include helping with bathing, personal care and dressing, keeping someone safe, helping to run the family home, responding in an emergency, and offering emotional support and guidance.

North Lincolnshire Council Wellbeing and Young Carers Team are committed to offering information, advice and support. They can work alongside young carers and their families to explore reducing excessive levels of young carer responsibilities and working with you to look at how caring is affecting your life.

Contact information and further details can be found on the young carers page or by calling 01724 296679.

North Lincolnshire Council commissions the Carers Support Service to deliver advice, information and support to adult and parent carers in North Lincolnshire. Further information can be found on the Carers Support Centre website or by calling 01652 650585.

The Family Carer Team works within North Lincolnshire Adult Services. The team’s primary focus is on the needs of the carer, keeping them well and enabling them to live their life while undertaking a caring role. You can contact them by emailing familycarerteam@northlincs.gov.uk or calling 01724 298393.

Young carers and their families share their stories

Young carers can be hidden from view in our communities. Many young carers just want to be heard and understood. School can be a particular challenge for many young carers with them striving to balance their caring role with education and managing the worry they might experience leaving their cared for person at home. Billie Jo (aged 14) shares her story.

“As I wake up every day I do not know what the day ahead is going to be like, it could be full of ups and downs, and full of stress or could be an easier day. Despite thinking of what could go wrong, I stay positive and look forward to the happiness the day can bring. Then I get ready for the day, make sure my brother is up and ready, make my mum a cup of tea and make sure she’s alright before I say my goodbyes to go to school. School can be challenging sometimes as if mum is having a bad day I worry if she’s okay during the day. On these days I find it hard to concentrate on my work. Some days I won’t go out with friends because I find it hard to leave knowing my mum may struggle getting around the house, which upsets me sometimes but I keep my head held high as I know better days are to come.

“When we go out with the Young Carers Team on days out it gives me time to relax from everything going on and have fun. I always enjoy my time with the team as it’s full of happiness and laughter. It’s important as a young carer to make sure you have someone that you can share your feelings with as it can a very emotional and very rewarding job.”

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  

Many young carers provide essential care and support for a parent, some young carers provide care for a brother or sister who has an illness or disability. This is Katie and her mum’s story about Katie helping to look after her brother.

“Initially, when I started to think of Katie as a young carer, I felt very guilty. When you have your baby you don’t expect to have to rely on older children to help, after all none of this was their choice.

“James needs constant attention and supervision, he has no concept of danger and can act very impulsively. Due to his physical needs, he needs support getting around, sometimes help with feeding, and any aspects of personal care. As a mum of five, I simply cannot be everything to everyone all the time. Katie is great with James, she intuitively knows what he needs and always puts him first.

“Beth, Katie’s support worker has always supported Katie in the ways that she needed, attended appointments when she promised, and got to know her as a person.

“Last year I realised Katie was becoming incredibly anxious and was not looking after herself properly. It transpired she was worrying about moving on and going to college, leaving me and James behind. Beth supported her in working through her anxieties, teaching her skills to help her cope, and helping her plan her next move. This support has been invaluable to us as a family. The Young Carers Team have helped Katie meet people in similar situations to her, given her new skills and support, but have also given me peace of mind that my daughter has someone she can trust.”

Beth said:

“For me, being a young carer is one of the most stressful yet rewarding parts of my life. It is also something I am extremely proud of. I am a natural worrier, however the Young Carers Team taught me ways in which I can manage this and allowed me to provide the best support I can for my younger brother. As well as this it gave me a lot of opportunities such as a university residential and the chance to learn key skills (such as first aid or cooking) which allowed me to meet other young carers who are in similar situations to me. Being a young carer naturally makes you different to other people my age, and it’s really good to know I am not alone.”

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       

Some young carers can have very differing life experiences to their peers, young carers can face varied and multiple disadvantages.

A nine year old carer who wants to be known as Lancelot shares their story.

“Hello everybody. I am a young carer for my mummy, as my mummy has disabilities. With these two disabilities that mummy has she can’t do as much as she is willing to do, which leaves her frustrated, upset and low.

“Sometimes we have to cancel things at the last second, leaving us upset because we don’t like seeing each other upset.

“But I do love helping my mummy in and around the home or out and about as she’s done so much for me over the years. So I am just basically giving her back what she has given to me.

“Sometimes I get frustrated and even upset helping my mummy, which used to make me feel really guilty, but since having lots and lots of help from the Young Carer Team they have given me support. They have given me tickets to see Mother Goose and I have done art and cookery classes. They have also done things like giving me an Easter egg, toys, books, colouring books and other activities to keep me stimulated during lockdown.

“Talking lots and lots to my mummy has helped me along the way.”

                                                                                                                                                                                                                           

Here’s a poem from a parent of a young carer.

Unsung heroes

As a family we were lost in a sea of diagnosis.
Hit with complicated words like “osteoporosis”.

As a single parent the support just wasn’t there.
My daughter had to help me daily, I was helpless without her care.

But amongst all of our anguish, a light came shining through.
A lady from ‘Young Carers’ came and told us what to do.

From teaching my child to cook, to lending her an ear.
From sorting out my scooter, to child of the year.

They took a whole family approach and helped us through dark days.
Always doing what’s best for us and helping in so many ways.

They helped my girl find an outlet, and what a difference that has made.
So caring for me wasn’t all she could do and her fears began to fade.

‘Young Carers’ have been amazing and proved to be a god send.
That lady has been there for all of us and we now see her as a friend.

Being my carer must be tough but with the support my child gets its no chore.
They made sure she could still have fun and not feel so alone in this anymore.

If you don’t know a young carer, they are heroes whose capes can’t be seen,
But every hero needs a side kick to help,
Which is what ‘Young Carers’ have been.

Thank you for the unwavering support you have given us year after year.
We would be so lost without it and we know you are always here.

So here’s to all the young carers who need someone to understand.
And here’s to the people who are always there for them to lend a helping hand.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       

Emily-May   

“My name is Emily-May, I am 12 years old and I care for my mum as a young carer.

“I’ve been registered as a carer for six years. My role is to care for mum; she has epilepsy, diabetes and arthritis. I help with shopping, washing, tidying up, and I help her get in and out of the shower. The best thing of all is cooking some meals.

“I make sure mum takes her tablets on time, I have a reminder on my phone.

“Being a young carer is making a difference, I have support from Tracey my young carer worker and the Young Carer Team, who if I have any worries or just want to talk, I can contact.

“I love to care for my mum, she means the world to me.”