Charity Focus: Norfolk Family Carers supports and provides opportunities for young carers

Norfolk Family Carers Young Carers Group

Young carers at one of Norfolk Family Carers' groups - Credit: Norfolk Family Carers

As part of our drive to support local charities, each week we are highlighting the vital work they do and the difference they make to the lives of people across the local community.

Norfolk Family Carers supports young carers across Norfolk who look after a family member.

About the charity

Norfolk Family Carers (registered as Norfolk Carers Support) is an independent charity supporting unpaid family carers across Norfolk. For nearly 30 years we have been helping people across the county who are caring for someone with an illness, mental health condition, learning disability or alcohol/substance misuse.

Our work currently focuses on young carers aged from as young as five and up to 18. Most children have the chance to play, have fun and develop as they grow up. For a young carer, looking after someone they love makes their experience different and their lives can be impacted in multiple ways. They often miss time at school, lack social opportunities and have difficulties maintaining friendships.  

Norfolk Family Carers Young Carer with Vegetable Pizza

A young carer with her rainbow vegetable pizza - Credit: Norfolk Family Carer

Norfolk County Council estimate that there are up to 12,000 children and young people in Norfolk who are providing support to a family member. Caring can be really rewarding but without the right support it can have a lasting impact on their life chances and their physical and mental health.  

We support 120 young carers at groups in Norwich and offer holistic support across the family to really maximise the difference we make to these young people. The group sessions allow the children time and freedom to focus on themselves: to try new things, meet other youngsters with similar experiences, access support and have fun.

Norfolk Family Carers Imogen Bradford

Imogen Bradford, a trustee of Norfolk Family Carers - Credit: Norfolk Family Carers

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Imogen, a trustee who attended a young carer’s group when she was younger said: “I found the support invaluable. It was so helpful to be around other young people who had similar home lives to myself and understood the challenges that come with caring for someone.

"It was a space which allowed us to completely switch off from these challenges but to also be supported if we wanted to speak about them. The groups gave me an opportunity to build my skills, confidence and most importantly have fun!

"Attending groups was something I always looked forward to, it was nice to have a place to be myself without any worries. The support from the charity helped me feel listened to and validated - which I feel is very important for young carers.”

Impact of Covid-19

The pandemic created a new and demanding set of pressures for young carers and their families. School normally provides essential time away from caring responsibilities so without this young carers felt isolated and anxious - and at a time when, for many, the level of help needed at home was increasing.  

In response, we quickly adapted our group sessions to be online and provided access to laptops and home activity packs and craft activities to give young carers vital opportunities for fun, a connection with friends and space to share concerns and worries. 

Norfolk Family Carers Young Carers Team

Members of the Young Carers' team - Credit: Norfolk Family Carers

Through regular phone contact we identified those requiring additional emotional and practical support. Providing reassurance and support to parents coping with home schooling was a common theme.  

A survey of young carers by The Carers Trust in July 2020 reported that 40pc said their mental health had worsened and 69pc felt less connected to others since the start of the lockdown. This is likely to explain the sharp rise in referrals we saw during and since the onset of Covid-19 resulting in a waiting list to access groups.  

In response we restructured and created 40 additional spaces at our group sessions to manage the increased need. However, despite the lifting of restrictions the impact of the pandemic continues, with many of our young carers showing signs of poor mental health and anxiety.

During the pandemic we received welcome Covid-19 funding from government and other organisations, however competition for funding since then is fierce. Our overall income has reduced significantly, eating into our reserves. This leaves us with challenging funding targets to meet our ongoing service and running costs in 2022/23. We are working hard to explore new income opportunities and expand our fundraising activities.

Norfolk Family Carers Activities

Norfolk Family Carers gives young carers a chance to try new activities, meet other youngsters with similar experiences, access support and have fun - Credit: Norfolk Family Carers

How Can You Get Involved? 

Whether you would like to fundraise, make a donation or offer some practical assistance, any help you offer would make a difference. 

We would welcome willing hands to support fundraising, to undertake an activity or challenge on our behalf or help with organising events. We also need regular volunteer support at our young carers groups. In addition we are looking for trustees with a financial background to join our board. 

Perhaps you could sponsor a place for a young carer at a group? Or would your business like to sponsor a group or specific cost, such as transport costs (we ensure all young carers are able to attend sessions).

If you would like to help in any way we would love to hear from you. Contact us on info@norfolkfamilycarers.org or 01603 219923.

You can donate online using the button on our website: norfolkfamilycarers.org.

Registered charity number: 1155684