By Joe Mellor, Deputy Editor
Today, 28th January, is young carers day, a time to raise awareness and praise the selfless work of children as young as five who look after a loved one.
In every classroom in the UK, it is thought there are two young carers, spending the majority of their time looking after a parent or close family member. Instead of enjoying their childhood like their class mates, they tend to others. 13,000 of these people care for over 50 hours a week, more than a full-time job.
The Carers Trust, the UK’s largest charity for unpaid carers, is using today to highlight the stresses and strains of young carers across the country. They help nearly thirty thousand young carers, who they help to utilise their specialised services and centres across the UK.
Gail Scott-Spicer, Chief Executive of Carers Trust said: “Many young carers don’t even realise they are a carer and that there is support out there for them. Our research indicates over two thirds of young carers are bullied at school, 48% are stressed and 44% 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 (NEET).
“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,”
One of these silent heroes is Emine, 20, who attends Carers Trust Network Partner Redbridge Carers Support Service.
She has for as long as she can remember looked after both of her parents who suffer from serious mental health issues. Emine’s mum has bipolar disorder and her dad schizophrenia. Both are clinically depressed. For this reason it falls on Emine to also help out with her three-year-old twin brothers, and 14 year old brother.
“I never thought of myself as a young carer growing up. I just knew that my parents weren’t very well and they needed my help.
“Because of his condition, Dad struggles with noise levels. The last three years have been tough because dad really can’t handle it when the twins cry, he starts shutting down and losing it so I have to send him upstairs. He spends a lot of the day sleeping as it’s the only way he manages to stay calm. I disturb him sometimes though to make sure he’s OK and that he’s taken his medication.
“Mum helps with the twins but I just have to watch out for her mood. If she has a ‘turn’ it affects everyone, and then I really have to be the strong one. If her mood changes then I tell her to go upstairs and have a break. We joke that I am the ‘other mother’.
Emine struggled at school herself but managed to pass her exams. She didn’t want to go on to further study despite encouragement, because she wanted to be around to support her family.
However with support from the Carers Trust and their Network Partner Redbridge Carers Support Service, Emine started to feel better about pursuing her own life’s ambitions. She is currently in her first year studying media production at Coventry University. She is in classes for three full days 9-5pm with the other two days required for coursework and reading.
She says, “My support worker at Redbridge Carers Support Centre Emma really helped me to see that it’s important I do something for me, as well as look after everyone else. If I’m taking a bit of time to care for myself then I am better when I’m caring for others. I couldn’t see it at first and I still worry about them a lot.
“The thing is the family will always be my priority.”
“I honestly don’t resent it, I just know that they need me and I will always have to be there for them. If I manage to do a few things for me and get my own career on top of looking after them all then that would be amazing, but they are always first in my heart.”
Carers Trust works to improve support, services and recognition for anyone living with the challenges of caring, unpaid, for a family member or friend who is ill, frail, disabled or has mental health or addiction problems. www.youngcarers.net