Released: 16 March, 2021
Two out of three young carers in West Sussex say their caring role has increased since the start of the pandemic, a survey carried out by the Young Carers Family Service has shown. Young carers also say they are more worried about the future because of coronavirus.
For Young Carers Action Day today (March 16), two registered young carers from West Sussex have shared their experiences to raise awareness of the extra challenges they and others like them face.
Emily from Pagham is 17 and has caring responsibilities for both her younger sister and father. Her sister has a life-limiting condition which means she’s unable to walk or speak, and her father who has a rare, long-term condition which affects his vision and can make him extremely tired.
It means Emily has taken on many extra responsibilities from a young age. She said: “Now that I can drive I often do the food shop, I help look after my sister by playing and reading with her and I help to keep her calm. Mum is a nurse and sometimes I cook dinner for the family when she’s working. I clean quite a lot as well, it really depends on the day how dad is because he gets really bad days.”
Emily is studying for her A-levels and says learning from home has been especially tough.
“All my studying is online, which is quite challenging for lots of young carers I know because going to college can be a break,” she said. “It’s hard trying to learn from home because there’s always a distraction.”
Emily is proud of the huge help she gives to her sister and father and says “I have to have very good time management”, adding: “I think everyone who carers for others has hard days but you have to just carry on and overcome it.”
Luke, from Chichester has just turned 16 and cares for his mum, who has depression. He said the start of the first lockdown was particularly tough but his network of support helped them both.
Luke is in Year 11 studying his GCSEs. He speaks openly about his own struggles and actively helps other students in his school with their mental health.
Like Emily, he is supported by West Sussex County Council’s Young Carers Family Service and he says speaking to other carers and his support worker Steph is a huge help.
Luke said: “I wouldn’t be where I am today without other young carers and the support of Steph, who has been amazing with mum.
"I’m a mental health ambassador at my school, I’m more confident as a person and I’m proud of being a young carer and I’m proud of the way I look after my mum.
"Even though it’s hard and some days can be a struggle, I’m glad I can talk about it and maybe help other people who are going through the same thing.”
In a survey conducted by West Sussex County Council’s Young Carers Family Service in 2020, 63 per cent of the county’s young carers told us their caring role had increased due to the pandemic.
This is mirrored nationally, where a Carers Trust survey found that 67 per cent of young carers and 78 per cent of adult young carers said they are more worried about their future because of the coronavirus.
‘Protect Young Carers’ Future’ is the theme for this year’s Young Carers Action Day, run by Carers Trust, on March 16. The Council is supporting the day by asking local communities and professionals to consider if a child or young person they know is in a caring role and if they and their family need some extra support, to refer them to our Young Carers Family Support Service.
Jacquie Russell, Cabinet Member for Children & Young People, said: “Now more than ever we all have a role in protecting the futures of our young carers so it is really important to us that we are able to identify them at the earliest age to provide them with the right support at the right time.
"We know there are many hidden young carers in West Sussex so we are asking the community to get in touch to help us reach out to any children or young people they believe are taking on a caring role for a loved one.”
West Sussex County Council’s Young Carers Family Service continues to provide support for young carers of all ages across the county who, like Luke and Emily and their families benefit from specialist emotional and practical support.
Group activities which are currently online aim to develop skills and build confidence. Support for 18-25 year old young adult carers is provided by the Shine Team at Carers Support West Sussex.