My story: Melissa, a young carer
You’ve told us that you want to hear more from the children and young people we work with. So, each issue we’ll be talking to one of them about their life. We start with Melissa, 16. Here’s her story of being a young carer.
‘Hello, my name is Melissa and I live with my mum, step-dad and younger sister. Within my caring role, I care for several family members. I help care for my mum who has depression and a slipped disc in her back – an operation a few years ago only made the pain worse. She’s also had a pace-maker fitted because, in the past, her heart would stop for up to seven seconds at a time, often causing her to faint.
‘My sister and I used to get help from my step-dad. However, he’s now unable to do this as he’s recently undergone open heart surgery.
‘I also help care for my dad, who fell off a balcony and cracked his head, and my grandmother, who is blind.
‘There isn’t a day goes by when I don’t do something for one of my family, but my responsibilities vary according to who I’m caring for. For different relatives I help clean the house, cook dinner, pick up medicine, walk the dogs, sort post, pay bills and make sure they’ve everything they need, among other jobs.
‘I’ve just finished my GCSEs and am preparing for college. This, along with my caring responsibilities, often leaves me feeling stressed. I don’t really have a social life or go out much with friends.
‘I also can’t sit and do one thing for a long amount of time, like revision, as I’m interrupted by other things, such as making dinner.
‘Sometimes, I feel as though I’ve had enough, but I know I can’t stop. It does help though that I have my sister and don’t have to do all of this alone.
‘I’m very keen to help other young carers, as there are so many out there, younger than me, who do so much more. I recently became a Young Carers in Focus (YCiF) Champion to raise awareness about the issues that young carers face and what my life is like being a carer.
‘I’ve received so much support from The Children’s Society’s YCiF programme as well as my local Southampton Young Carers and their Next Steps project, so I think others could benefit from this. It helps to give young carers a break once in a while, which we so desperately need. They do this through one-on-one or group meetings and trips to take our mind off things, like the recent Young Carers’ Festival. Also, the Next Steps programme can help with applying for colleges and jobs, which can be difficult for some people.
‘I believe that there isn’t much out there to help young carers, so being a Young Carers in Focus Champion is being part of something that can help change that – that was what inspired me to become a champion.’
Hidden from View
A staggering 166,000 children in England care for their parents, siblings and family members, a 20% increase since 2001, according to new census data published in May.
Our recent report, Hidden from View, revealed that young carers lag behind in school and miss out on their childhoods because of the demands placed on them. They’re also one-and-a-half times more likely to have a long-standing illness, disability or special educational need than their peers.
We know from our experience that many vulnerable young carers are hidden from the view of support services who could help them.
You can help
You can help young carers to make sure they get a break from caring and the support they need by donating to or by fundraising for The Children’s Society. Every year we organise the Young Carers’ Festival and your support will help to give young carers a much needed break and a chance to get their voices heard.