Only a fifth of young carers in St Edmundsbury are getting support
PUBLISHED: 12:46 01 February 2019 | UPDATED: 12:49 01 February 2019
SUFFOLK CARERS MATTER
A "worrying number" of young carers are going under the radar in west Suffolk and are not receiving the support they need, experts have said.
Suffolk Carers Matter, a non-for-profit organisation supporting carers of every age, has found there are about 820 young carers living in St Edmundsbury yet only 148 - about a fifth - receive support after analysing national and county-level data.
Nationally, it is estimated there are 700,000 young carers, while in Suffolk the figure was estimated as 9,000 in 2016.
Suffolk Carers Matter aims to improve the identification of young carers by working with schools, colleges and local authorities to offer them the support they need.
It will provide group activities, one-to-one emotional support and an online live chat with trained professionals, with a focus on young carers and young adult carers aged five to 15 and 16 to 24.
The organisation said these two groups experience disadvantage through isolation and mental health issues relating to their caring role.
Speaking yesterday on Young Carer’s Awareness Day, Simon Brown, founder of Suffolk Carers Matter, said it was “hugely important” to reach young carers, adding the issues are a lack of understanding about whether a young carer is one and the challenges they face.
Also, we all tend to keep our family lives to ourselves, he said, so young carers may not open up.
“In society at the moment we haven’t moved on to be open about it - that’s a barrier we are breaking down,” he said.
Laura Cox-Watson, carer advisor at Suffolk Carers Matter, added: “Children and young people do not always see themselves as young carers, they may just see the help they give as part of their family life.
“It is vital that young carers can enjoy life as children and young people and that their experiences and educational aspirations are not limited by their caring role.”
They may miss out on activities other young people enjoy, such as accessing after-school clubs due to a lack of funds or having a parent who is unable to drive.
Ms Cox-Watson said a young carer may not fit the stereotype of someone who is taking on household chores and it could be that they are giving emotional support to a parent or sibling.
She said: “Families can feel ashamed, but it’s nothing to feel ashamed of and can be something to feel proud of. Being a young carer teaches amazing life skills like empathy.”
Mr Brown said for schools the challenge is recognising when a pupil has perhaps arrived late or not completed their homework it could be because they have a caring role.
Suffolk Carers Matter works with schools, colleges, the university, clubs and local hotspots to raise awareness of young carers.
For young carers, Suffolk Carers Matter will provide a listening ear, events and activities and give advice tailored to a young carer’s unique needs and circumstances.
The organisation can also provide insight on carers’ rights, grants and funding available and can signpost other local charities and organisations serving carers’ needs.
For further information about Suffolk Carers Matter and to access support call 01284 333035 or see here.
Will’s story of being a young carer
Will Frost, 21, who works for Suffolk Carers Matter, said it was only when he looked back he realised he had a caring role for his twin brother, who has Asperger Syndrome, a form of autism.
He said he always looked out for him, but when they moved to upper school he had more of a role in keeping an eye on him.
“At the time growing up it never occurred to me I was anything other than his brother, but the more I look back on it I think there were certain things I did and how many brothers would have done that?”
He said at County Upper School in Bury St Edmunds his twin, because of his Asperger’s, sometimes struggled to read emotions, which could lead to misunderstandings with other students.
Will became his brother’s unofficial social media manager, monitoring what he put out to save him making a fool of himself.
Now his twin, who he asked not to be named, is “independent and happy”.
He believes their mum and dad - who are in good health - would have benefitted from support from the charity, which in turn would have helped him and his brother.