Carers’ Week: ‘When I come here it is an escape – they just get it’ - A look at the sacrifices made by carers on the Fylde coast and who they turn to when they need help

Jenny Sunley paints bricks at Blackpool Carers Centre
Jenny Sunley paints bricks at Blackpool Carers Centre
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All in all, just another brick in the wall?

Far from it, as the children and young adults at Blackpool Carers’ Centre get painting bricks in bright colours.

Youth worker Andy Gunn

Youth worker Andy Gunn

Utterly immersed in the project, artist smocks splattered with paint, they giggle as respite worker Jenny Sunley checks her nails – and turns to grin at them.

In this moment they are entirely themselves, not young carers, cares fading away against a bright vivid backdrop to Beaverbrooks House on Newton Drive, the house that DIY SOS rebuilt.

At the other side of that wall is an annexe, holding the promise of a respite lodge once funding is secured.

A community garden rises between, thanks to volunteers.

The carers still fondly remember when the DIY SOS cameras came to town

The carers still fondly remember when the DIY SOS cameras came to town

One man’s given up his own allotment work to come here, providing the wood for the raised bed containers, soil conditioner, sand for a paved area.

Elsewhere, volunteers from St James’s Place Wealth Management are digging in.

Strawberry juice stains will soon replace the paint daubed on the carers’ smocks, as children cram into their mouths the fruits

of their labours and realise how much better it tastes when you have grown and harvested it yourself.

Enjoying a sensory session at the centre

Enjoying a sensory session at the centre

Back in 2015, when metal thieves trashed the building after Blenheim Lodge children’s services relocated, carers’ staff picked their way over broken glass, past jagged floorboards and radiators ripped from walls to see the potential shine from this broken place.

Small hand prints in paint upon a glass door gave them fresh heart.

Children would return to re-energise this building, young carers, adult carers too, volunteers and staff who jostled for elbow room and parking space at former premises outgrown by carers’ needs.

Beaverbrooks Charitable Trust bought the property and presented it to the charity for a peppercorn rent for 20 years.

This was then followed by the transformation to functioning HQ by BBC DIY SOS in summer 2016.

Since then, Beaverbrooks has also funded a volunteer coordinator, provided support in recruitment, estates, training – and volunteers.

Some of those young carers who brought 3.9m viewers close to tears when DIY SOS Big Build for Children in Need aired now help the charity that helped them.

It means young carers can get the support they need so badly,

One 13-year-old who uses the centre admits: “The food parcels help a lot, and the trips are really fun, even though I didn’t want to leave mum.

“I feel safe; a lot of good things have happened here.”

Another, a young adult who cares for their mum and brother, says: “Coming here is an escape, but more than anything it’s about talking to people, without them judging me. They just get it.”

Money goes a long way here. For every £1 spent on fundraising the charity brings in more than £12 to support local carers.

A £5 donation buys ingredients for 10 young carers to take part in a baking session.

One 10-year-old carer says: “We learned to make cookies and I made them at home with dad because he doesn’t get out much.

“We also made a memory box of things that make us happy for when we’re feeling down.”

In one year, 2,149 places were provided at the charity’s youth club for young carers.

There are 1,000 carers from five to 24 on the books today.

Research indicates one in five secondary school children have a caring role. For many it started in primary school. One in 10 are under 10.

In the main building children, many as young as five, play happily with others or with respite workers.

Young carers from across the North West gathered here for the start of Carers’ Week and marvelled at the facilities.

Local carers of all ages don’t take them for granted – or the help available. All know it could change – at the drop of a grant.

Yet this is a charity which helps carers see life “in colour again”, says Faye Atherton, head of services. Not shades of grey.

For volunteers such as Suzanne Cartwright it’s about “support and friendship, giving something back and knowing help is there if needed.”

For nine-month-old Jake it’s about discovering a brave and bright new world of sight, sound, taste and sensation, held in thrall by the kaleidoscope of shapes and colours playing upon the walls of the brand-new sensory room, funded by the Vera Wolstencroft Trust.

All in all, just another brick in the wall?

No. Carers underpin the foundations of Beaverbrooks House. And they are, even if they don’t yet realise it, rock solid.

They already hold the fabric of society together.