Meet Norfolk’s ‘hidden heroes’ of coronavirus

Taylor, 17, from Norwich looks after her sister and says while she can get stressed she has found it

Taylor, 17, from Norwich looks after her sister and says while she can get stressed she has found it easier than she had thought. Picture: Caring Together - Credit: Archant

More than three quarters of young carers in Norfolk feel lonely and isolated, as a new campaign launches to tell them they are not alone.

Lynne Haverson is a young carer from West Norfolk and has shared what life has been like for her dur

Lynne Haverson is a young carer from West Norfolk and has shared what life has been like for her during the coronavirus pandemic. Picture: Haverson family - Credit: Archant

Caring Together, which provides a support and advice for carers of all ages, is running an ongoing survey to find out how young people caring for loved ones are coping during the coronavirus pandemic.

Of the 35 responses so far, 79pc of young carers felt lonely and isolated and 75pc said their mental health had been negatively affected.

For 17-year-old Lynne Haverson, from King’s Lynn, she said it has been “stressful and frustrating” providing care for her younger sister Francesca.

Among her duties is helping at home by doing the cook and cleaning, but says it has been lucky her mum has been at home when her sister is struggling.

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Lynne said: “Before lock down my caring role was organised but stressful but I did get a break two times a week when I had my days off at college and my sister was still attending school. Personally for me lock down has been stressful and frustrating, the biggest challenge has been getting my sister out of the house for exercise and dealing with meltdowns.

“I personally am really looking forward to going back to work after lockdown and going back to some form of normality.”

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During the pandemic Lynne has been receiving support from West Norfolk young carers and the Norfolk young carers forum and called for more awareness and mental health support for carers.

Caring Together’s also asked young people what support they needed with 70pc tasking for help with planning for emergencies and 67pc thinking virtual peer support through online groups would be useful.

In the survey, more than half said they saw their caring role had increased and were unable to take a break.

Around three quarters of those were seeking for information and practical advice as well as ideas of things to do at home when they cannot see friends among the services that would help address their issues.

Caring Together’s head of carer services, Andy McGowan said; “Young carers have told us loud and clear that nationally, they feel that young carers are not being listened to, and that people aren’t aware of the significant challenges many young carers are facing due to the coronavirus crisis.”

He said that, following the response to the survey, Caring Together had sourced tablets and provided bursaries to support young carers and was working with Norfolk County Council on a campaign which will launch from Monday.

Julie Dawn Brociek-Coulton, Norfolk County Council’s member champion for carers, called young carers “heroes at home”.

She said: “This is an extremely challenging role in the best of times and during the current COVID-19 crisis, we recognise that things might be particularly tough for many young carers, especially if family members are shielding. We want all our young carers to know they are not alone – we are here for them and our new campaign launching next week flags up the broad range of advice and support available.”

The youngsters have been supported by Caring Together through its Norfolk young carers forum project which aims to make young people’s voices heard.

For 17-year-old Taylor, from Norwich, she said lockdown has been easier than she had thought.

The teenager looks after her disabled sister and helps with personal care, breakfast and lunch and medication.

She said: “I have found lockdown easier than I thought I would because I thought it would be tricky.

“There have been days where I struggle because I’m finding it hard not being able to see my friends and family and also worrying about getting my college work done in time. But I can easily cope with it and it gets sorted out. The one thing I’m looking forward to after lock down would have to be seeing all my family and friends and also celebrating things we were unable to do during lock down.”

13-year-old Kosy-Lee, who supports his brother at their home in King’s Lynn, is still attends school while his parents are at work.

He added when he was able to he would enjoy playing football with his friends, who he has currently been keeping in touch with online.

He said: “Lockdown has been a challenge but I have my brother and sister and lots of school work.

When speaking about extra support, he said: “Maybe to be more recognised with the things we do to help others. We also have our own needs too - that can be overlooked.”

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