Norfolk’s young adult carers are the focus of new project
07:30 06 August 2012
The role of carers has gained a higher profile in recent years as campaigners fight to get them the recognition they deserve. But, as VICTORIA LEGGETT reports, one group remains largely hidden.
Carers of all ages were once a group of completely overlooked, entirely unsung heroes who spent their days and nights offering vital – and unpaid – support to their family members.
And while the challenges of that selfless role have not changed, their profile has at least been raised as campaigners fight to get them the recognition they deserve.
But now a new project is hoping to reach out to an often still hidden group of carers.
The Young Adult Carers Committee, organised by Crossroads Care East Anglia and Carers Trust, has been awarded £40,000 in Health Lottery funding to establish a support network for 16 to 25-year-olds.
It aims to interact with carers who are juggling the tricky task of being an essential source of help for their loved ones while also negotiating the transition into adult life.
The Norfolk Young Adult Carers Committee is a group of carers, aged between 16 and 25, who know exactly how difficult life can be.
Committee member Luke Broad, from the Dereham area, said: “Some of the main problems young adult carers face are things like access to education, trying to find a job while managing responsibilities at home as well, and knowing that you can’t just abandon your responsibilities to go off to university.”
The group has now launched a consultation which hopes to reach out to people like them, find out what barriers they face and the help they would like to overcome them.
Four consultation meetings will take place during August and September where carers will be encouraged to answer key questions.
Their responses will be used to guide the second phase of the project, the creation of new services.
Wendy Last, project officer, said: “We need to hear from at least 50 young adult carers to make it a valid consultation.
“We’re specifically trying to contact the young people who are pretty much housebound because of the extent of their caring role.
“We know there are thousands – we think about 12,000 – that are hidden at the moment.”
Mrs Last said there were a number of reasons carers may not have sought help in the past.
Some will fear the consequences of acknowledging they are struggling – worrying their young siblings will be taken away or their parents will get in trouble. Others feel obliged to take on the responsibility and do not feel they deserve support.
And some have such low self-esteem they are convinced they are not worth spending time and effort helping. “It’s selfless and it’s heartbreaking,” said Mrs Last.
That viewpoint is not helped by the attitudes many people have towards young people in their situation.
The plights of older people looking after elderly relatives or spouses and school children forced to stay at home with a parent are beginning to get recognised. But the only support open to young adult carers, who are too old to be considered young carers, is often a forum full of 60-year-old men and women.
Mrs Last said 16 to 25-year-olds get little support specifically aimed at them.
“I’ve approached companies to help with funding and I’ve been told ‘if you come to me with a seven-year-old, I will give you money’, but a 17-year-old isn’t marketable,” she said.
“But these are the kids you will complain about if they have to start claiming benefits. And you’re telling me you won’t help because they’re not cute? It’s phenomenal what these youngsters are having to deal with. I think I would struggle to cope with that but they have also got to get up for school, sit an exam, and then justify why they only got a D.”
Paddy Seligman, chairman of the EDP’s We Care appeal, which has raised £1.06m in support of carers, confirmed the young adults’ hidden status. She said the charity came into contact with very few carers in that age range.
“It could be they haven’t heard of us. At that age, they are very proud and perhaps it doesn’t fit into their lifestyles to go to a charity.”
The Norfolk Young Adult Carers consultations take place on: August 25, in the afternoon, in West Norfolk; August 30, in the morning, at Salthouse; September 1, in the morning, at Dereham; and September 10, in the evening, at Gorleston. Free transport can be provided.
For more information – or to contribute to the consultation without attending an event – contact Wendy Last on 07795 533682 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information about the EDP’s We Care appeal, go to www.wecareappeal.co.uk