A Norfolk charity has renewed its pledge to help the county’s 87,000 carers, many of whom are facing ever greater financial pressures as they care for loved ones.

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Norfolk Carers Support, formerly the Norwich and District Carers Forum, relaunched under its new name on Friday, also revealing a new support website and a £250,000 project to improve the prospects of young carers in the county.

The charity, of which the Princess Royal is a patron, represents the one in 10 people in Norfolk who look after ill or disabled relatives or loved ones, provides support services and speaks to government on their behalf.

David Todd, chief executive of Norfolk Carers Support, said carers and their families were facing huge challenges because of cuts to welfare and support budgets.

He said: “Economic times across the county are tough but families affected by illness and disabilities seem the hardest hit.

“Not only do they fight caring costs, decreased and often lost earnings; they now have to balance this with endless cuts to essential services and benefits which were designed in the first place to support them.”

He said the aim of the charity, founded in 1994, was to bring to light the vital job of carers but also make people aware of the support available to them.

“Our message is simple and clear: contact Norfolk Carers Support – we can help,” he said.

The Princess Royal, a patron of the charity, has praised the Norfolk Carers Forum, saying: “It will provide a united and stronger voice for carers which will enable us to continue to raise awareness of carers’ issues with government, other policy-makers and all our supporters.”

The charity held an event at the Forum in Norwich on Friday to coincide with Carers Rights Day and unveiled the three elements of its relaunch to an audience of 100 invited guests.

Iain Bradshaw, service development manager, said the new name reflected the way the charity’s role and reach had changed in the 18 years since its foundation.

“We have moved forward in many different ways,” he said. “When we were founded as Norwich and District Carers Forum, we were there when carers wanted someone to speak on their behalf. But we have now moved to a much broader geographical location and also offer carer support services. We are no longer just a voice for carers, and our new title clearly identifies who we are and what we do.”

The newest strand of those support services is an initiative for young carers, funded by a £247,000 grant from the Big Lottery.

Aimed at young people aged 16 to 24, the Transitions project will offer specialist one-on-one support services to those moving from childhood to adulthood while caring for loved ones.

“So much is happening in their lives at that time and it can be difficult to develop socially and get yourself into a job, education or volunteering opportunities,” said Mr Bradshaw.

“We hope that we can improve their wellbeing, confidence, self-esteem and opportunities for social inclusion.”

Projects will be targeted at the more deprived wards of King’s Lynn, Norwich and Great Yarmouth, and have a target of reaching 75 young people in the first year – though demand is likely to be significantly higher.

“There’s a gap in provision for these young people currently, not just in Norfolk, but nationally,” said Mr Bradshaw.

The project takes a holistic, ‘whole-family’ approach to support, though an emphasis is on making the most of a young person’s potential and opening up routes to further education and employment.

“Young carers may find that many of their friends are going off to university but if they have someone at home they are caring for, they may find it difficult to do that themselves. In fact, it’s usually impossible.

“We will offer one-on-one support to help them make the most of their particular situation.”

Currently, around five per cent of Norfolk’s carers fall into the 16 to 24 age bracket, but there are difficulties in identifying and reaching that demographic.

“There are many more hidden carers in that age bracket,” said Mr Bradshaw. “In particular carers of those who have mental health issues or drug and alcohol abuse problems, who are often more reluctant to identify themselves.”

As part of its bid to reach as many carers of all ages as possible, Norfolk Carers Support yesterday unveiled a new website offering advice resources, carer news and details on the charity’s projects.

It also includes a social forum, where carers can swap stories, seek advice and offer support to others in similar situations.

Mr Bradshaw said the website forum offered an arena for carers of different backgrounds to share knowledge of their “journey of care”.

“It’s amazing that when someone has been through that journey of caring, as stressful as it has been for them, they still want to help others.

“They know what it means to want to help others.”

To find out more about Norfolk Carers Support, visit www.norfolkcarerssupport.org or call 01603 219924.

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