WHAT a difference a year can make.
Just 12 months ago, young carer Jayme Lea Hurren was a shy 18-year-old, who had spent her life caring for her mum, who has mental health problems – including bipolar and schizophrenia.
She found it hard to talk to people, and felt embarrassed when asked about her caring role.
But thanks to help from Blackpool Carers Centre, the petite teenager has won a Hero in the Community Award for Young Achiever of the Year, starred in an educational DVD – which scooped top prize in a national competition – and spent last Tuesday speaking to hundreds of women at a conference for International Women’s Day at the resort’s Hilton Hotel.
Jayme, now 19, said: “The Carers Centre turned my life around.
“When I first came here, I had dropped out of college, and all I was doing was caring for my mum, who was becoming more dependent on me.
“I was shy. I didn’t like talking to people about being a carer.
“Now I’ve moved out, and am sharing a house with a friend I met through the carers’ centre. We look after each other.
I had to get my own place – my mum was getting more and more dependent on me.
“My mum now has her own place, and it’s warden-controlled, so it takes the pressure off me a bit. I still look after my mum, and go round, and sometimes she comes round to mine, but we have our own space now, and she’s learned to be more independent.
“So she doesn’t rely on me as much. At first it was really difficult, and my mum was upset, but we are still really close. She is proud of me.”
Not only is Jayme studying for a diploma in mentoring and community learning, she is working as a young carers champion, with other young carers and organisations, like the police, to help them understand the issues young carers face.
She said: “When I speak to young carers, they tend to tell me more, I think because I am closer to their age.
“Most young carers experience the same problems, although everybody’s circumstances are different.
“I find it easier talking to people now. I’d never have thought I would be speaking at the women’s conference to all those people.
“But my confidence has built up and now I don’t mind. Now I just talk about things and it doesn’t bother me.
“I hope it will help raise awareness and help other young carers in future.
“I wouldn’t change a thing. Even all the bad things I’ve been through – it’s made me who I am.”