To mark Young Carers Awareness Day we hear from one such person who talks about just what it means to be a young carer and how vital it is they get support:
Young Carers Awareness Day is important as it is the national day of recognition for the UK’s 700,000 young carers and helps tell people about the challenges that young carers face.
I only realised I had been a young carer throughout my childhood when I applied to work with NHS England as a Young Carers Administrator.
Like me, there are so many people out there who probably don’t realise they are a young carer with caring responsibilities.
When I was just four years old, like many other children, I started doing things for myself: playing games, discovering new things, brushing my own teeth and dressing myself. Even at this age, I soon started to realise that what I had to do was different to other children.
My mum cared for both my Grandma and Grandad and, as part of day-to-day life, I was needed to provide additional help.
My Grandma was diagnosed with dementia and Alzheimer’s when I was aged around four and unfortunately passed away when I was just 15 years old.
Shortly after, my Grandad started to pick up infections and gradually became weaker and weaker. He needed help with day-to-day tasks such as walking, going to the bathroom, and feeding. In 2015, my Grandad was diagnosed with cancer and early in 2016 he passed away.
As a teenager, I quickly had to balance school and college work with my caring responsibilities. I regularly took my Grandad for day trips, made his meals, fed him and supported him generally. I regularly had to drop everything I was doing and go to see him immediately if there was an emergency. I visited Grandad every morning before school.
My caring role meant I had no social life. but I thought this was the norm. I did, however. manage to make time for myself to compete in acro-gymnastics at the Yorkshire championships.
When I left school, I went straight to college and midway through my course got a part time job which I did for two years. After college I applied to become the Young Carers Administrator. This has been a fantastic experience and is my first step on the ladder to developing my knowledge and skills.
My role has enabled me to meet other young carers and share our experiences, and to put forward my ideas and opinions to the carers’ team. My role is already helping NHS England make things better for young carers by providing staff with a much deeper insight into what being a young carer is like, what some of the challenges are and where there are problems in getting the right support when it is needed.
By seeing things through the eyes of young carers, NHS England can help to provide the right information and support. I hope my experiences will help many other young people out there who face the challenges of being a carer on a daily basis.
So far, I’ve been involved in a range of activities and meetings aimed at improving support for carers. One of these events was the annual Commitment to Carers event in London.
I’ve also been involved in looking at a Carers app for the NHS England staff carers’ network. I am also mentored by Carers Leeds, who I meet with every other Wednesday.
I feel so lucky to be able to share my experiences with an organisation like the NHS knowing that my role as a young carer will help others who are, and have been, in the same position as me.
There is so much support available from a wide range of organisations and from this role.
I also hope to improve my work skills and enhance my CV so that I have a wider choice of employment in the future. Who knows, I could even be here, working for the NHS in many years to come!
- Young Carers Awareness Day aims to promote understanding of how difficult it can be for young carers to realise their hopes and dreams for the future unless they have the right support in place. This year’s theme is ‘When I grow up’ and it’s all about helping young carers to achieve their dream jobs or career, and we want everyone to be a part of it. Get updates at: #YoungCarersAwarenessDay.
Lavinia spent a large part of her childhood caring for older family members.
As a result of her employment with NHS England, Lavinia is hoping to gain transferable office skills and to widen the range of career opportunities open to her.