My name is Alex, I am 12 years old and I go to Ralph Allen School. I help to care for my 10-year-old sister, Izzy, who has developmental delays. She is both great fun and very hard work. I love her very much, but there are times when I find caring for her very difficult and stressful. I would like to tell you about my experience of the Young Carers organisation and why I think it is so incredibly important.
Many young carers don’t have access to things most kids do, either because their parent or parents are busy looking after their sibling or because their parents themselves need looking after, so are physically unable to transport them, or supervise. This can result in missing out on a lot of things, which doesn’t feel great.
My life felt a lot harder when my sister and I were younger, because she needed constant help and I felt there wasn’t enough attention to go around. Right now it’s tougher for my 8-year-old brother, Toby, than it is for me. It’s easier to entertain yourself when you are older by, say, meeting your friends in town, and I can just bus myself there and back, but when you’re younger, you rely on your parents a lot more.
In my family, our lives revolve around my younger sister. She needs huge amounts of attention and near-constant supervision. We were in and out of hospital a lot when she was younger, with constant health and motor problems and doctors checking up on her physical and mental condition. She couldn’t cope with busy places or loud noises, so we didn’t get out much. It wasn’t easy for us or our parents.
Izzy is much stronger now and we don’t worry about her health any more. Also, moving from mainstream school to Fosse Way special school in Radstock has transformed her mental health – it is a great school and she is very happy there and full of confidence.
And me and my brother, of course, we’re the lucky ones. We care for a sibling, not a parent, which is worlds more difficult. We still have two parents to look after us, no matter how thinly stretched their attention might sometimes be and how much they rely on us to help.
I help my sister to get out of bed every morning but I’m helping my parents, not looking after her on my own. Children who care for their parents need this service far more than me and Toby, and I can barely begin to comprehend how difficult it must be for them.
Young carers are forced to grow up quickly by their circumstances, and don’t always have the luxury of a childhood. We have to take on more responsibility than other children our age. That’s why we need the Young Carers organisation. Young carers need time away from caring, time to just be a child. They need all the support they can get.
The Carers’ Centre team give us their undivided attention, something we don’t often get at home. They know what we have to go through every day and can help us if we need emotional support. Just as importantly, they give us a chance to relax, have a break and enjoy ourselves. Being a young carer can sometimes be very isolating, but the Carers’ Centre helps us meet other kids who understand us, whose ‘normal’ is more like ours.
The Carers’ Centre team have an enormous impact on our mental wellbeing. It isn’t easy being a young carer, but the support makes it miles better than it would be otherwise. All of us are really grateful for your generous support of the young carers team at the Centre – it means a huge amount to all of us.