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Lifeline for Young Carers may be cut

PUBLISHED: 08:48 13 June 2006 | UPDATED: 11:00 22 October 2010

RACHEL BULLER

A lifeline providing help and support to hundreds of Norfolk children who miss out on their childhoods to care for sick relatives is under threat, it was warned last night.

A lifeline providing help and support to hundreds of Norfolk children who miss out on their childhoods to care for sick relatives is under threat, it was warned last night.

The Young Carers' Project, run by the Norwich and District Carers' Forum, is financed by the government-run Children's Fund, but it will stop next March and there is no alternative funding available to keep it running.

The charity provides young carers - some as young as five - with weekly support as they struggle to keep the family together as their parents battle disability, illness and mental issues, while also trying to keep up their education.

News of the funding crisis coincides with the launch of National Carers' Week, which this year highlights the health risks placed upon carers as they deal with the pressure of caring for somebody around the clock.

A number of events is being held across the region, highlighting the plight of carers, both young and old.

The EDP is a long-time supporter of young carers and our We Care Appeal has raised almost £750,000 since it was launched six years ago.

More than 2,000 children aged between five and 13 are believed to be caring for relatives in the county - with many more "hidden" because families refuse to seek help and reveal their home lives.

David Todd, executive officer of the Carers' Forum, said the young carers were unaware their lifeline was under threat.

"Some of these children live very isolated lives. We all feel responsible. The children will be cut adrift to cope alone when the money runs out."

The Young Carers' Schools Project has run since 2002 and the Children's Fund money was due to stop in 2008, but cuts in the past three years means money has effectively already run out.

Mr Todd added: "The only reason the project is continuing is because our trustees have underwritten it from our own resources and fundraising."

Frances Kemp, assistant director for children's services at Norfolk County Council, said there was concern about what would happen after the funding ended next March with the Young Carers' Project.

"I will be working with the Children's Fund over the next six months to work out transitional funding arrangements."

The start of National Carers' Week also coincides with a major change to another of Norfolk's key support service.

Crossroads is about to celebrate its 10th birthday and handles around 6,000 calls a year from carers.

However, following a major review of its service, it is set to switch from a 24-hour to a 12-hour a day service after it was found that only 15pc of calls were being made between 6pm and 6am, and only 10pc on a weekend, leaving support workers extremely stretched during the peak daytime period. It is hoped that by refocusing resources, the charity can be more effective.

Carers' Week will be launched in Norwich today at St Andrew's Hall, with a special Carers' Fair bringing together more than 80 organisations offering advice and support, between 10am and 4pm. There will also be an exhibition in the foyer of County Hall for staff and visitors.

On Thursday, a number of charities from across Suffolk will hold a special event for carers in a marquee on Lowestoft High Street.


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