Shining a light on young carers

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What happens at home stays at home, on day three of our series of special reports in National Carers Week, Jacqui Morley meets two of Blackpool’s young carers – and their champion

Young carers are often invisible in their communities – including to their friends and sometimes their relatives.

What happens at home stays at home.

They don’t see themselves as carers; they don’t want to be considered different.

Here in Blackpool, Carers Trust Fylde Coast is out to reach this invisible army… and one striking symbol of the seaside is helping light that path.

Blackpool Tower lights blue tonight with a magenta heart – the colours of caring – to shine as a beacon for hidden carers in health and social welfare blackspot Blackpool for at least part of National Carers Week.

Down below, specialist support workers are helping identify and assist children – and parents – in families socially isolated because of substance misuse.

Other young carers are encouraged to attend a weekly youth club at Claremont to give them time out – or attend young adult carer support group sessions or respite breaks, even day trips and residential stays.

It’s crucial for all carers, but particularly young carers – and elderly carers at the other end of the scale – to know they are not alone.

In fact, 25 per cent of young carers say they have been bullied at school. Locally, some are home schooled for that very reason. It’s happened here. It’s happened to them.

Research reveals one in 12 children at school is a carer – at least two carers per class. And many care for at least 20 hours a week. Most get low grades at school as a result.

Tomorrow, Carers Trust Fylde Coast Carers Centre begins its annual Cash Quest 4 Carers – a corporate challenge to businesses to help fund the next Young Carers Champion by raising money over three months using a £50 stake.

Current carers’ champion Lauren Codling, 20, has lobbied parliament, health and welfare watchdogs, educationalists and policy makers.

She also plays a vital role in the charity’s allied social enterprise – and will be helping highlight the £750k fund-raising campaign to transform what will become the trust’s new headquarters at Newton Drive. She says: “Carers, young and old, are inspirational. They save the state up to £130bn – yet get so little in return.

“This charity is a lifesaver. Particularly for children. We help hundreds of young carers and young adult carers. But there are probably thousands. It is crucial we grow this service.”

Zoe Harris, 18

‘It gives me hope that things can get better’

“I care for my mum who has osteoarthritis (both knees and right elbow) permanent tennis/golfers’ elbow in left elbow, and suffers with epilepsy, depression and some memory loss.

“I got referred because I was late, fell asleep, didn’t work and fainted due to not eating at school.

“I was taken to meet the carers’ mentor who visited once a week.

“I broke down, but said I was fine, didn’t need help. She told me I was a young carer. I said I just look after my mum.

“They took me home and met mum, and told us what services and help was available and we filled in forms to register.

“I met the carers’ worker every Wednesday at school after that. I also went to carers’ youth club – mum took me the first time.

“The service has helped me hope that things can get better.

“I’d lost that hope. It has helped my confidence and I’ve found I’m not alone.

“It’s helped me to get 
through college, volunteering, and to get away for a few 
hours to a few days on residential trips or day trips so I can relax. Counselling has helped me cope better.

“Towards the end of high school I didn’t access the service, but still got the updates – then the Young Adult Carers worker called for a catch up, and because I trusted them it was easier to access the activities going on.

“What I value most is there’s always someone to talk to, cry to, or help when you feel you have no direction. On a scale of one to 10 in terms of how bad I felt I was minus zero before I got involved – now I’m seven. Not perfect, but so much better.

“I want to help get the word out about all they do. Don’t suffer in silence. Accept help even if you’re stubborn. Not just for yourself but the person you care for. I’m a carer. No other word describes it.”

Aya Souayed, 11

Young Carer of the Year

‘We’re in it together’

“In October 2013 my mum told me she had cancer. I had no idea what to do; I was shocked and didn’t expect it at all.

“From then on I have become a completely different person, more caring and take a lot more responsibility.

“I have learnt a lot of new things, I have more respect for others.

“After my mum’s operation she started chemo which made her seriously ill. She was on lots of medication; night and day I sorted her pills and recorded her temperature, high indicated she was getting very ill again. The hospital explained how important it was to take it regularly.

“I would ring the hospital if her temperature had reached 38 or above. My mum was rushed into hospital by ambulance six times in 12 weeks; her temperature kept rising and she kept getting infections.

“I had to go somewhere else to stay, but visited her every day. She told me she was fine. I knew she wasn’t.

“It was awful to see my mum became weak and in so much pain. It was hard for me to leave to go to school.

“I would make her cups of tea, clean up, help her to stand and walk – and wash.

“The Young Carers support workers offered me support and I could tell them how I felt. They visited me in school and took me on day trips – it was great to enjoy myself.

“It’s really hard looking after someone with a serious illness. I worried a lot about my mum, thinking about her all day at school.

“My mum is waiting for more operations. I am always going to be there for her, we’re in this together.

“Young Carers still support me and one day I hope to offer help to another child that might be in the same situation as I know what it’s like to be a young carer.”

Aya’s mum Devry adds: “I have had the support, love and care from my family and good friends throughout. I’m lucky and feel blessed. My two youngest daughters Emira (aged 13) and Aya (aged 11) live at home, and have had to cope with many things that my cancer and treatment has thrown at me.

“I was too ill to move some days, in too much pain or so medicated I couldn’t function. Roles reversed; they cooked, cleaned and ran the house. I was ordered to bed on many occasions.

“I don’t know how I’d have coped without them. I worried for them and the effect my illness was having on them. Emira is quite deep and keeps her emotions in; Aya is inquisitive and asks outright.

“We are a very close-knit family, and together we get through. We have our first family holiday for three years later this summer, and start a new chapter with my next operation. “

* Any businesses willing to support Cash Quest 4 Carers can either attend the launch event tomorrow at the Village Herons Reach from 1pm to 3pm or call the carers’ support team at (01253) 393748 or email kay.soper@carerstrustfyldecoast.org or follow @cashquest4carer