Posted: 15 February 2016

Henley Festival will help thousands of young carers

Young carers are often incredibly brave and resilient, but they need the right help and support to have a bright future. 

My work with young carers at Explore Family in Nottingham, involves giving young people the time and space to talk about how they feel and help them understand the impact that drugs and alcohol have upon their lives. 

Many do not identify with being a young carer or recognise the level of care they are undertaking for a member of their family. They just do it because they love the people or because nobody else will do it. We also work with other family members, and in cases where that includes substance abuse the person abusing substances where possible. This is because we know that often young people undertake caring duties because the person with the difficulties with substance abuse isn’t getting the right help and support.

The burden on children

It is particularly hard in families where there is drug or alcohol misuse because of the secrecy, shame and stigma that surrounds substance misuse and addiction. The main things we explain to young people is that it isn’t their fault, they can’t cure it, they have the right to be loved and cared for too and they are not alone. These are very powerful messages for the young person to hear and we work on these messages throughout our work.

Young carers in these families are similar to other young carers in that they can feel like they are taking on the role of the parent. They often feel lost and have low self-esteem, lack confidence and sometimes have poor self-care. Their caring duties can lead to falling behind on school work and poor attendance at school. Sometimes the young people use unhealthy coping mechanisms to deal with the trauma they experience, including self-harm and eating disorders.

Supporting carers

Our service, Explore Family in Nottingham provides support to young people and families to reduce the impact of substance misuse and bring about change. Ultimately our role is to make sure that young people are safe and well, so it is important we work with other agencies to make sure the whole family are suitably assessed and supported. We provide a range of interventions for individuals and whole families, from one-to-one support to group work and fun activities.

Young people say we provide a safe environment for them to talk openly about their feelings and worries. A place where they feel someone actually understands what they are going through. Many say that before coming to Explore Family, they felt alone and as is they were only person experiencing these problems.

The new partnership with Henley Festival is exciting for us and means we can get creative and bring to light some of the powerful stories behind Britain’s hidden young carers. It’s also an amazing opportunity for young carers to be part of the magical festival atmosphere and get involved by reviewing performances. Crucially, over three years we will receive a minimum of £60,000 which means we’ll be able to provide more support to thousands of young carers.

Help young carers

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By Chantelle Dodsley
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