11 Feb 2015

Young carers are urging MPs and local authorities to do more to support them, on the day they launch a ground-breaking portrait exhibition in London.

The Children’s Society, which leads the Young Carers in Focus (YCiF) programme, is supporting Hidden, being shown at gallery@oxo, Oxo Tower Wharf, South Bank, London, until 22 February.
 
Hidden captures, for the first time, the hidden lives and hardships – as well as hopes and resilience – faced by hundreds of thousands of young carers as young as three up and down the country.
 
Official census figures estimate that there are 166,000 young carers across the country, but The Children’s Society believes this is just the tip of the iceberg.
 
Young carers like Sami believe much more can be done to support their needs. The 14-year-old from Peterborough, who cares for her older brother and younger sister, wants the exhibition to jolt MPs into action. She said: ‘MPs need to come out and meet us. We are normal people and don’t look different and shouldn’t be treated with pity – we just need support and a break.’
 
The Children’s Society – alongside Rethink Mental Illness, The Fatherhood Institute, DigitalMe and the YMCA – has brought together 24 young carers from across the country for the photo exhibition. London. DJ and presenter Jo Whiley, a former young carer, is one of three celebrities who have had their portrait taken.
 
Singer, songwriter and actress Jade Ewen, said of being part of Hidden: ‘Being a young carer has more positives than negatives for me in my life. It made me stronger than I realise. But we had no extended family or much money when I was growing up. Both my parents were on benefits – which I had to help organise – and we were placed in a flat for seven years that was a total nightmare to live in.
 
‘Not only was the place damp and cold, but it was really difficult for my parents to move about in. It was really dangerous. I remember the damp made my school blazer mouldy, and we couldn’t afford a new one – it was really embarrassing.

That’s why organisations like The Children’s Society and the Young Carers in Focus project are so vital and why I’m supporting their exhibition called Hidden. It will shine a spotlight on the thousands of hidden children across the country and highlight the help that’s available that would have made such a difference to me when I was a young carer.’
 
Max Alexander, award-winning photographer and former young carer who took the images, revealed: ‘I wanted to show the contribution young carers make to society. In this exhibition, I chose to portray these young carers as children and young people in their own right, which is what they should be. I wanted to show them as determined and resolute individuals, but vulnerable too. Their hidden stories then reveal themselves in their words.’
 
The Care Act and Children and Families Act both come into effect in April, heralding the biggest overhaul of social care in 60 years. But The Children’s Society is urging local authorities to make sure they have enough resources to offer support for families where an adult or child has a physical disability, mental health issue or substance misuse problem.
 
The Children’s Society Chief Executive Matthew Reed wants the exhibition to wake visitors up to the reality of life for the country’s young carers. He said: ‘Hidden raises awareness of the needs of young carers and their families. I hope, like me, you will find their messages moving and inspiring. The Children Society is working to make sure that their stories are no longer hidden from view and they receive the support they need to enjoy their childhoods and fulfil their potential.’
 
Chair Peter Ainsworth, Chair of the Big Lottery which funded the exhibition, says: ‘The Children’s Society shows the huge challenges that young carers face and the significant personal cost of their caring responsibilities. We are incredibly proud to be supporting the Young Carers in Focus partnership and the amazing Hidden exhibition which brings these issues to light, give young carers a voice, and ensure they have the support they need.’

Hidden is open from 11-22 February 2015 at gallery@oxo , Oxo Tower Wharf, South Bank, London. Admission is free. For more information visit http://www.childrenssociety.org.uk/ycif

NOTES TO EDITORS

- High-res images and case study interviews with the young people featured, including Sami, available upon request.
- The Children’s Society’s ‘Hidden from View’ report analyses data from a government study of 15,000 young people, aged 13 and 14, over a seven-year period, from 2004 – 2011. The ‘Longitudinal Study of Young People in England’ (LSYPE) was commissioned by the then Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF). Of the 15,427 young people who completed the first wave, 689 (4.4%) identified themselves as young carers.
- The Young Carers in Focus (YCiF) programme, led by The Children’s Society, brings partners together from YMCA Fairthorne Manor, DigitalMe, Rethink Mental Illness and The Fatherhood Institute. The four-year programme, running until 2016, is funded by the Big Lottery Fund.
- Funded by a Youth in Focus grant from the Big Lottery Fund YCiF is creating a national network led by 200 young carer ‘champions’ aged 10-25. Young people taking part are receiving training and enjoying experiences which will improve their resilience, confidence, skills and knowledge. The aim is to increase their well-being and quality of life - particularly during transitional stages in their education, and as they move towards independence.

- The Children’s Society has helped change children’s stories for over a century. We expose injustice and address hard truths, tackling child poverty and neglect head-on. We fight for change based on the experiences of every child we work with and the solid evidence we gather. Through our campaigning, commitment and care, we are determined to give every child in this country the greatest possible chance in life.
- The Fatherhood Institute is the UK's fatherhood ‘think-and-do’ tank (charity reg. no. 1075104). Our vision is for a society that gives all children a strong and positive relationship with their father and any father-figures; supports both mothers and fathers as earners and carers; and prepares boys and girls for a future shared role in caring for children.
- Rethink Mental Illness is a charity that believes a better life is possible for millions of people affected by mental illness. For 40 years we have brought people together to support each other. We run services and support groups that change people’s lives and challenge attitudes about mental illness. We directly support almost 60,000 people every year across England to get through crises, to live independently and to realise they are not alone. We give information and advice to 500,000 more and we change policy for millions.
- YMCA Fairthorne Manor is committed to ‘championing and adding value to young lives by providing experiences that challenge, enable and develop the individual'. In 2000 the Young carers Festival (YCF) was created by YMCA Fairthorne Group in partnership with The Children’s Society. The annual event brings together up to 1,500young carers from across the UK for a weekend of fun, relaxation and consultation.
- DigitalMe runs a series of projects and programmes that put the power of social media in the hands of young people; the impact on the young people involved can be life-changing. Many participants, and the people who support them, have demonstrated enormous improvements in confidence, aspiration, and attitude to learning and life skills that will last them a lifetime. Messages from YCiF will reach 450,000 young people in over 9,000 schools over four years, through the www.makewav.es site.
 
Venue name
gallery@oxo
 
Full address
gallery@oxo
Oxo Tower Wharf
Bargehouse Street
South Bank
London
SE1 9PH
 
Opening times
11am-6pm
 
Coin Street info
gallery@oxo is owned and managed by Coin Street Community Builders
 
Coin Street website
www.coinstreet.org

MEDIA CONTACTS

For more information, please call Patricia Curmi at The Children’s Society on 020 7841 4422 or email media@childrenssociety.org.uk. For out-of-hours enquiries please call 07810 796 508.