Posted: 24 February 2016

‘I didn’t know I was a young carer until I came to this service – you don’t really think about it'

Today we released our new report on young carers, 'There's nobody is there - no one who can actually help?', which explores the challenges of identifying the support that can help them, and how we get a sense of how many young carers there are.

The report contains Bina's story, which is presented below. Please also read our report.

Bina's story

Sabina, or Bina, is 17 years old. She lives with her father, whose vision is impaired and who is affected by depression. Bina helps to support him with a range of tasks. She helps with paperwork and applications, as he struggles with reading and writing. She gets him to hospital appointments and supports him emotionally, as he can find it hard to remember things and often feels uncomfortable leaving the house. In addition, Bina also helps to look after her two younger brothers, taking them to school and supporting them in lots of ways when her father is ill. She cooks, cleans and shops to ensure that the family have what they need – and she worries about finances and feels sad that her brothers don’t have a higher standard of living.

Bina says her caregiving role started when her parents’ relationship broke down and she moved with her father and brothers to a new area (when she was about 13), but concedes that she’s actually been helping to support various family members since she was a small child.

However, as she explained when talking about the young carers service that she now attends, the concept of being a ‘young carer’ was alien to her: ‘I didn’t know what it was until I came to this service – you don’t really think about it.’

It’s difficult for Bina to pinpoint exactly when she became a ‘carer’, other than when she was referred to the young carers service a couple of years ago.

Bina says that she used to find her caregiving role stressful, particularly taking on more responsibility for domestic tasks at home after her parents separated. At the time this was compounded by other things happening in her life – she struggled to get a place in a new school, she felt isolated and didn’t have many friends she could talk to – and she became depressed. She started getting stress headaches and went to the doctor, who gave her a prescription for painkillers. After a while she overdosed on her medication.

As a result, Bina ended up in hospital and was referred to a crisis mental health team – a process which she found upsetting and not particularly supportive. She can’t recall anyone explaining the concept of ‘young carers’ to her, or suggesting that young people in her situation qualified for any kind of support. Eventually though, she was referred to a young carers service locally, which she finds invaluable. However, whilst Bina feels like she’s finally got the support she needs as an individual, support and benefits her father accessed have been cut, meaning that she’s worried about his welfare more than ever and plugging the gaps in caregiving herself.

Bina’s got big plans. She’s going to college and wants to apply for a scholarship to move overseas to study. But she’s at a crossroads – her plans would mean leaving her father and her young brothers, and she doesn’t think they would be able to cope without her.

What support could have meant for Bina

As our report illustrates, had legislation like the Care Act and Children and Families Act been in place when Bina was younger, this may have helped to ensure that she had been identified sooner, as her father would have been in touch with adult services teams for his various physical and mental health support needs. The whole family approach would have highlighted that he had children, and provided the opportunity for identification and referral to support before it reached the critical level that it did for Bina.

If local authority services such as housing and the police understood that Bina took on additional responsibilities in her home, this might have meant that when she called to log repairs needed on their home, or ask for help to deal with anti-social behaviour in her neighbourhood, she would have been given better support with those issues.

Likewise, had there been systems in place that many schools have now adopted, there would have been the chance for her to get the help and support she needed at school when things changed at home and she realised she was becoming depressed and isolated.

And finally, if the young carers’ services that Bina, and so many like her, have come to rely on were able to plan for longer-term support – rather than existing from one year to the next depending on what funding becomes available – then this would ensure that the support, friendships and fun that these spaces provide would be protected.

Whilst these aren’t what all young people need or want, more sustainable funding would also provide space for services to innovate in areas such as peer mentoring or generalist youth services, and to provide a better offer for a wider array of young people.

Read our report

Read 'There's nobody is there - no one who can actually help?' 

 

By Matt Summers-Sparks - Digital team
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