Raising the profile of youngsters who care

Young carer Hazel  with her brother Matthew, 15, who she helps take care of
Young carer Hazel with her brother Matthew, 15, who she helps take care of
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Hazel Hall knows first-hand about the difficulties faced by young carers.

The 19-year-old has been helping to look after her younger brother, Matthew, who has Autism Spectrum Disorder and severe learning difficulties since she was nine years old.

Her story is just one of the many told by young carers across the whole of the county – which charity Carers Trust hopes to highlight for Young Carers Awareness Day, on Thursday.

It says there are two young carers in every classroom in the UK. Some are as young as five or six years old and most care for a parent or close family members, day in, day out.

Hazel, from South Shore, said: “My brother Matthew is 15, but he has the mental age of a three-year-old due to his conditions.

“It means you have to keep a close eye on him all the time.

“I have to make sure I keep him out of the way when my mum is cooking in the kitchen, or tidying up.

“I help keep him entertained by talking to him, making him laugh, showing him programmes like Horrid Henry, just generally looking after him and doing things for him.

“I’ve done it since I was at primary school.

“I think being a young carer and helping out at home like this does make you grow up quicker.

“I’m on the media panel for the Carers Trust, which I feel helps give a voice to young carers like myself.

“As well as being a young carer, I am studying a BTEC level 2 in business at Blackpool and the Fylde College, and I volunteer at local youth groups. It does mean I’m very busy.”

Hazel says there needs to be more awareness of the issues affecting young carers.

“One of the main issues is cuts to services. Projects like the young carers project in Blackpool are not funded by the council or Government.

“I attend a support group every two weeks, that support is really important for young carers.

“Most people think carers spend all day just caring, but many young carers try to make a life for themselves as well – which means they are really busy, with their education and being a carer too.

“Their homes lives are definitely not average.

“And young carers who are students need better bursaries. Young carers have a lot of challenges in education.

“That’s why I support the Carers Trust Better Bursaries Campaign, which can make a big difference for young carers.

“The Carers Trust is great, it gives young carers that extra support they need.

“I’d eventually like to go into media for business or for a charity like the Carers Trust – and put something back.”

Gail Scott-Spicer, chief executive of Carers Trust, said: “Many young carers don’t even realise they are a carer or there is support out there for them.

“Our research indicates more than two thirds of young carers are bullied at school, 48 per cent are stressed and 44 per cent tired.

“We know young carers miss on average, 48 school days – that’s nearly 10 weeks of school a year – due to their caring role.

“Those aged between 16 and 18 years are twice as likely to be not in education, employment or training.

“We must change this and make sure they all get the support they need so they can thrive and enjoy their childhoods like any other young person.

“On Young Carers Awareness Day, we want to reach isolated young carers up and down the UK, who desperately need our help.”

Visit www.carers.org/ycad or follow @carerstrust on Twitter