Young carers make a date with PM to voice concerns

Most days 15-year-old James Kirk is elbow deep in dirty nappies and juggles homework with housework. But today he has a prior engagement - a meeting with prime minister Gordon Brown.

Most days 15-year-old James Kirk is elbow deep in dirty nappies and juggles homework with housework. But today he has a prior engagement - a meeting with prime minister Gordon Brown.

James, who cares for his blind mother and six brothers and sisters, is one of three young carers from Norfolk who will tour the Houses of Parliament and meet Mr Brown to discuss the challenges they face every day.

His mother, Kelly, said James has always been a kind and considerate boy.

“But he came into his own when I lost my sight in October last year,” she said.


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“He never gets five minutes to himself as he is so busy helping me and his brothers and sisters. He helps with the cooking and cleaning and changes the babies' nappies - He is a really little hero.”

As James was getting his hair cut ready for his big day, he told the EDP bashfully: “I just do what I can to help out.”

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But James, a prefect at Old Buckenham High School, near Attleborough, does a lot more around the house than the average teenager. Since he was 10 years old, James has been helping out with the cooking and cleaning, guiding his mother around town and looking after his brothers and sisters.

“There are seven of us kids so it can get very stressful around the house. The youngest, Ethan and Hayden, are two and eighteen months, so I've changed a lot of nappies.

“Being a young carer can be very difficult and sometimes it is overwhelming, but I like to do my bit to help out. Sometimes I am so busy at home that I can't go out with my friends and live the life of other 15-year-olds.”

He is very excited about meeting Gordon Brown today and has a long list of questions to ask. “I want the prime minister to raise awareness of young carers. Yesterday I asked all the teachers at school if they knew what a young carer was, but only two of them knew.

“We need more support to help us cope with all the responsibility placed on us at a young age. It would be nice if there were more people we could talk to when things get difficult.”

Mrs Kirk, who has been partially sighted since birth, said she was “immensely proud” of James who has won many school awards and hopes to become a pilot.

Two other young carers from Norfolk will also meet Gordon Brown as part of the Young Carers' Forum. Tanya Jones, 14, from Yarmouth, cares for her mother who suffers depression and anxiety. She said “My mum has been really sick and I do a lot to care for her, she finds it difficult to do everyday things, so I help her out with cleaning the house and looking after my brother.”

Reece Nixon, 16, from Long Stratton, looks after his bedridden 17-year-old sister, Stephanie. “She has had serious health problems all her life and now suffers from ME and can't move about on her own. I have to take her to the toilet and bathe her,” he said. “It is not something most teenagers have to do.”

Christine Comacle-Smith, of Crossroads Norfolk Young Carers' Project, who is joining the children on the trip, said: “Young carers' lives are affected by their caring responsibilities. They often feel isolated and also would like a life of their own.”

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