West Sussex Young Carers Service has received the Investing in Volunteers award, the first time a West Sussex County Council service working closely with volunteers has received it.
Investing in Volunteers (IiV) is the UK quality standard recognising good practice in volunteer management for organisations involving volunteers in their work.
There are currently 30 volunteers involved with the Young Carers Service, 14 mentors and 16 transport volunteers, all of whom give their time to support young carers to improve their opportunities in life.
Keith Gurney, a volunteer with the scheme, said: “I got involved to put something back into the community and supporting vulnerable youngsters is a good place to start.
“Not only do we feel valued by the team but also by the very people you are setting out to help.
“I have felt as if we are an important cog in the wheel.”
Young carers take on responsibilities at home because someone in their family is disabled or has been ill for a long time, experiences mental ill health, or has a problem linked to drugs or alcohol.
Although lots of children and young people are able to lend a hand, the impact of these caring responsibilities may cause difficulties at home, in school or college, or elsewhere.
Volunteers have provided transport for 75 young carers over 270 journeys enabling them to attend their local young carers group, while 35 young carers have been successfully matched with a volunteer mentor for six months or longer.
Regarding the success of the transport project, one young carer said: “I got to meet someone new and I like sharing what we've been doing.”
Another young carer, who had benefitted from the volunteer mentoring scheme, said: “I wanted someone new to talk to, someone I could trust, who I knew wouldn’t tell anyone if it wasn’t urgent, and someone different to talk to apart from family because sometimes families just don’t understand.”
Peter Evans, County Council Cabinet Member for Children – Start of Life, said: “Volunteers have given their time, energy and enthusiasm which has been much commented on by parents, young people and professionals; we cannot thank them enough.’’
You can find out more about Young Carers Service online.