National Young Carers Awareness Day (Thursday Jan 28) can’t come a moment too soon for hundreds of young carers in Blackpool who want a better start, fairer deal and brighter future.
Many take on caring responsibilities normally expected of an adult to cope with a loved one’s illness, disability, mental health or substance misuse.
The theme day, the second of its kind, organised by Carers Trust, aims to set social media alight with mass synchronised tweets and posts and hash tags #YCAD and #emptychair to show young carers miss out on so much others take for granted.
Blackpool Carers Centre is already playing a key role. Several of our young carers have featured in the local and national media with more to come – today they talk to us about what caring means to them….
Erin, seven, helps care for her two autistic brothers. She says the carers’ youth club has helped her make ‘lots of friends’. “Only one boy at school understands because he’s the same.”
Erin’s dad, who works shifts, adds: “It’s not just some chores for pocket money but a very real contribution to the household. The youth club gives Erin time to be herself, she deserves it; they all do. They probably all miss out because of the situation at home.”
Tara Bragg, 21, looks after her sisters Samantha, 28, and Jodie, 18. Samantha has Down’s syndrome and Jodie other health issues.
Tara admits: “It’s important to get help. The charity’s been great. You have to believe in yourself and not feel guilty for wanting some time out.
“And if you’re not a carer you shouldn’t make judgements on those who are – you have no idea of what they may go through.”
Louise Poyner, 16, along with her younger sisters Katie and Lily help mum Sarah, 43, care for dad Chris, a former builder, 42 who had a stroke followed by a heart attack in his mid 30s.
Sarah admits: “Chris says our support means everything to him – but he means everything to us. The girls support us without hesitation.”
Louise says: “Being a carer means a lot to me; it has made me a better person, more confident.
“I’d like people to understand what a carer is – which is NOT a paid one .
“When I tell people I am a young carer they say to me ‘what does that mean?’ and this really winds me up.
“I think everyone should know -because there are a lot more carers out there not getting the help and support they need.”
Hazel Hall, 19, who featured in the Sunday Express, started caring for her autistic brother, now 15, when she was 10.
“He means the world to me. I didn’t know I was a carer until I met Nigel (McMurdo) from the charity at my primary school. He was amazing, really easy to talk to.
“I hope more schools support the campaign. If they say they haven’t got young carers they’re not looking hard enough.”
Hazel is studying BTEC level two Business at college. “I’d love to change the way the charity is funded so it doesn’t have to fight for grants all the time.
“Carers contribute so much yet get so little.”
Current Young Carers’ Champion Camilla Ball, 21, agrees: “I would like every education professional and any establishment working with young people to know what to do when they come across young carer – refer them to our service. Here are people who do actually care about their best interests.”
Charity CEO Michelle concludes: “Carers are the most cost effective social care workforce there is – they’re unpaid. They save the local economy more than £334m (in terms of saved care costs, hospital admissions, GP visits and more). Yet the very word ‘carer’ itself is a barrier to greater awareness. That must change.”