We work with young carers and young adult carers living in Gateshead aged 5-25. These are children and young people who support a family member who has a chronic illness, disability or addiction. Young carers provide a range of support to their families, such as:
practical tasks, such as cooking meals, housework and shopping
physical care, such as helping someone out of bed
personal care, such as helping someone wash, dress and feed
dealing with challenging behaviour
helping someone to communicate or translating on their behalf
supervising siblings and taking them to school
According to the last census, there are more than 22,000 carers living in Gateshead. Of these, over 1,600 are under 25. Most live in one of the most deprived areas in the country. While the majority will provide up to 19 hours of care per week, over 200 reported providing more than 50 hours. Our 2017 Young Carer Health Review indicated that young carers can experience high levels of tiredness, poor sleep, and feeling ‘sad’ , ‘low’ and nervous. Additionally, caring responsibility can have a significant impact on family income, employability, educational attainment and social inclusion.
The Young Carer Service was set up to provide activities that enabled young carers to have a break from their caring role. Over the last 20 years it has grown to include school drop-ins; skills, health and personal development workshops; individual grant-making; one-to-one support and professional counselling; on-line support via social networking; young carer consultation; as well as on-going social opportunities. The Service works with local partners to provide a discounted entry at local leisure facilities and individual short breaks for young carers. As part of Carers Trust Tyne and Wear we are able to work closely with our sister teams to provide coordinated support to young carers' families.
Young carers and their families inform us that:
We enable them to develop resilience, which helps them to cope better with their situation.
Social activities have multiple values. They relieve stress; provide a space in which young carers are not required to maintain the level of maturity and responsibility required at home; enhance physical, mental and emotional wellbeing; diffuse tension within the home; and reduce social isolation.
By encouraging social interaction and raising interpersonal confidence, we enable young carers to improve relationships at home and with peers.
Our mental health support, including professional counselling, has promoted health improvement or, at the very least, prevented it from worsening
Our education support is highly valued. This has included homework and study groups where young carers have quiet space to complete work and access to a tutor for additional support; regular secondary school drop-ins where students can meet with staff, have a healthy snack and meet with other young carers in their school; and an ID card that allows young carers to identify themselves discreetly when facing challenges at home and needing additional support from school.
At a professional and strategic level, we address disadvantage by encouraging and supporting better practice in other agencies. Examples include:
Co-delivery of ‘carer awareness’ training alongside the local NHS Mental Health Trust to mental health practitioners.
Co-delivery of Common Assessment Framework training alongside the Local Authority to staff from the Gateshead children’s workforce.
Working with our Young Carer Expert Panels to create resources for health and education professionals that encourage proactive identification, recognition and support.
Training for school staff and support for them to achieve the national Young Carers in Schools Award for the quality of their young carer provision.
Local awareness-raising campaigns, often to coincide with Carers Week and led by young carers.
Our campaigning with young carers has led to the initiation of Gateshead’s Young Carer Strategy and we continue to play a key role in its development.
At a national level, we are able to join the campaigns of the wider Carers Trust, the largest single agency supporting carers in the UK, as well as partners such as The Children’s Society and Carers UK. This ensures that young and adult carers are able to take part in national research and consultations, as well initiatives such as the Young Carers in Schools Award and Young Carers in Focus.