Young carers in Cornwall are encouraging other young people in a similar position to come forward and get the support they deserve.
There are an estimated 4,000 young people aged 25 and under providing unpaid care for their families across the county, but Cornwall Council is warning that around half of those are missing out on vital support.
As part of Young Carer’s Awareness Day, a film featuring young people from across Cornwall has been launched to encourage more young carers to access the support services available to them.
The film has been produced by Kernow Young Carers and features young people such as Bethany, who said: “I didn’t realise I was a carer when I was younger, because it was a gradual process, but it’s quite a responsibility when you are nine or 10 years old. When I was younger I used to look after my nan, but when she passed away that’s when I started to look after my mum because she started to go downhill.
“There are stressful times when you are a carer and sometimes you do feel overwhelmed. Young Carers is about going out and having an opportunity to do things you wouldn’t normally do; you’ve got a set date and something to look forward to. It breaks up that time that you are at home looking after a parent or sibling and you learn a lot about yourself being a part of Cornwall Young Carers.”
Kernow Young Carers is an Action for Children project commissioned by Cornwall Council, to provide support, activities and support groups for young carers up to 25 years old who look after parents/carers, siblings and other family members.
The service is aimed at making sure their caring does not stop young carers having the same opportunities as all young people. This includes information, advice and guidance, activities and trips, short breaks, support groups, and support in schools.
Cabinet portfolio holder for Children and Young People Sally Hawken said: “Young carers don’t always realise that they are a young carer; helping with medication, cooking, cleaning, or helping to dress the person they look after. We offer a lot of support which can really make a difference to young carers. This Young Carer’s Awareness Day today, we are taking the opportunity to raise awareness of the information and support available to young carers in Cornwall.”
More than 700 young carers supported by Kernow Young Carers are referred due to their parents’ health problems, which can include disability or long term illness. Nearly 500 young people care for a sibling, and 180 care for parents with mental health problems such as depression and anxiety. Other reasons for young people becoming carers include parental substance misuse, caring for a grandparent who lives in the family home, and young adult carers who care for a partner.
Kernow Young Carers regularly attend schools to give information to pupils about the support available. They help schools to identify and support young carers, and can also offer one-to-one support where the caring role is having a significant impact on their own welfare and opportunities. They run activities in the holidays to give young carers a break from their caring role and have access to funding to give young carers a trip out on their own or with the person they care for.
Aaron is also part of Kernow Young Carers. He said: “I have been a young carer for a year or two, before I joined Kernow Young Carers, life was hard. Not knowing who’s out there or if anyone can help or show support? Since day one I have loved it and the way I can just talk to people and they understand the situation I am in, because some people don’t understand the consequences of being a carer. For example going out with mates – I cannot do that because I am caring for my mum and brother.
“My grandad has been a rock for me and my mum because he takes us where we need to go in the car, and helps care for my mum and brother, so he knows the impact and what it’s like to look after someone. Being with Young Carers helps me talk about being a carer confidently to my mates and people who are going through the same but care for different relatives, and I can make new friends.
“I would like to say thank you to Kernow Young Carers and I would recommend them to anyone, and I would like to say if you care for anyone at any age, go speak to them, don’t hold back. It does not matter if you are five or 16, go speak to them and you will see the difference.”