Young carers facing a tough time, says Norfolk teen

A Norfolk teenager has told of the difficulties facing young carers as they try to get an education while looking after family members.

Hannah Cargill, from Great Yarmouth, has become a campaigner for young carers in the county as a key member of the Norfolk Young Carers Forum, which was launched last year.

The 18-year-old cares for her father, Antony, 48, who is bed-ridden with multiple sclerosis and she has to fit in most of the household chores around her course in hairdressing at Great Yarmouth College.

During National Carers Week, which is this week, Hannah told the Eastern Daily Press how even though she only goes into college for two days a week, she cannot receive Carers' Allowance because her course is considered to be full-time.

She said: 'I'm probably caring up to 50 hours some weeks, but I still don't qualify for the allowance. They basically want me to quit college to be a carer and this is not pushing young people in the right direction. It's not really fair and young carers are not being encouraged to do the right thing.'

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Through her work on the young carers forum, Hannah has decided that instead of taking up hairdressing as a career, she would love to study child psychology at university.

She has been accepted onto an access course in psychology, English literature and sociology at the college in September.

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She said: 'I think young carers should have as much involvement as possible in how the money is spent to help them.

'They need to hear it from us and not people who think they know what we want.' Set up by Crossroads Care last year, the Norfolk Young Carers Forum has been giving young carers the chance to make themselves heard locally, as well as giving them the chance to enjoy themselves and meet other young carers.

Stewart Betts, service development manager for Norfolk County Council's children's service, said that according to 2001 census figures there are around 1,700 young carers in the county, but some research carried out by the BBC last year now suggested there could actually be as many as 12,000.

He said: 'I think there are lots of families where children are routinely carrying out caring duties for family members and for many families and children that is okay.

'It's when it becomes inappropriate because of what they are doing or how much caring they are doing that it becomes an issue. One of the things I'm really proud of in Norfolk is the young carers forum. If you talk to young carers you realise that they almost never say they want to stop caring – what they usually say is that they want proper support for the person they are caring for and that they would like to have the opportunity to be a child every now and then.'

The Norfolk Carers Helpline can be contacted on 0808 808 9876.

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