Introduction

Introduction

I had a difficult childhood, with my mum being severely mentally unwell and my dad killing himself when I was 12 years old. After Dad’s suicide, I was left to look after my mum without any help from relatives or healthcare professionals. I provided continual care throughout the remainder of my childhood, which was awful at times. Rather than choose to do this, I felt I had no other options. I was one of many children in the UK performing difficult caring tasks.

Why I Wrote This Book

I wrote ‘Guidebook for Young Carers’ and created this website because I would like to help present day young carers. Bearing in mind how difficult I found being a young carer, I would like to pass on practical advice based on my own experiences. Therefore I wrote the book and created the website to provide realistic advice to anyone who is experiencing similar challenges to those I encountered.

I also want to excite and inspire young carers about the future. When I was a young carer I experienced a range of emotions, including sadness, despair, frustration and anger. At certain times in my adult life I have also felt these emotions. Nevertheless, I have been able to achieve many of my ambitions. I would like young carers to understand there is hope and that they can follow their dreams and live a great life.

Finally, I want to prepare young carers to win against the idiots they will unfortunately encounter in life. The biggest challenge I faced was some of the adults I had to deal with.

An Unknown Number of Young Carers

The data regarding the number of young carers in the UK is very poor. The UK Census 2011 said there were over 177,000 children in England and Wales performing caring tasks. However, research conducted by the BBC in 2010 suggests there could be 700,000 young carers in the UK. This figure could also be inaccurate because some organisations believe that many young carers are not known about, and therefore the actual number could be much higher.

The personal circumstances of different young carers vary significantly. Some will be caring for someone with a physical problem, a mental problem, or perhaps both. Some young carers are known about and are in supportive families, possibly with other family members also providing care. These are given love, kindness, encouragement and practical help. Others are not known about and may receive no support. Some may even have been deliberately left to cope in extremely difficult situations and may receive criticism from others who do not want to provide care.

Being a young carer can have a significant impact on a child’s health, happiness, emotional development and performance at school. Some research shows that:

  • A quarter of young carers said they were bullied at school because of their caring role (Carers Trust, 2013).
  • Young carers are more likely than the national average not to be in education, employment or training (NEET) between 16 and 19 (The Children’s Society, 2013).
  • Young carers achieve much lower GCSE exam results than average, the difference between nine Bs and nine Cs (The Children’s Society, 2013).

There is even less research regarding the emotional impact that being a young carer has on a child. Whilst no statistics are available, it appears clear that young carers often feel sad, lonely, abandoned, frustrated and angry. That was certainly my experience.

How to Use The Book and Website

The book has two parts: Chapters 1 to 4 tell my story and Chapters 5 to 10 give advice for young carers. This website contains each chapter separately. I am fully aware of the pressures that are placed upon young carers, so I have broken the book and website into clearly labelled chapters to make information easy to find. The chapters do not have to be read in order. Depending on what is happening in a young carer’s life, and how they feel at any particular moment, they may choose to go straight to a certain chapter.

Here is a summary of the chapters covering my story:

Chap. Title Summary of Contents
1 Early Years My childhood and the events that happened before I became a young carer.
2 My Experiences Of Being A Young Carer My experiences of being a young carer, including how I felt at the time.
3 My Adult Life My adult life, covering both work experiences and providing care as an adult.
4 The Truth Is Uncovered The results of an investigation into my childhood and what I believe some family members did and did not do.

and a summary of the chapters providing advice:

Chap. Title Summary of Contents
5 Lessons From My Experiences A review of my experiences as a young carer and some key observations.
6 Advice on Certain Topics Advice I would give to all young carers about how to cope with their caring role and still achieve their goals.
7 Know Your Rights A summary of the laws introduced in 2014 that apply to young carers.
8 Tell Your Story A chapter for young carers to complete to tell their story.
9 Getting Support Some people and organisations which offer help to young carers.
10 Conclusion A brief conclusion.

Some readers may choose to read all chapters in order. Some may not read my story and instead concentrate on the sections that offer advice. Others may feel they are in a desperate situation and need immediate help, so may go straight to Chapter Nine – Getting Support.  There is no right and wrong way to use the book and website; each reader needs to decide what is best for them. I would, though, encourage all young carers to read The Golden Rules, which are at the start of the book and are a page on this website.

Difficult Topics

I should warn readers that in my story I describe some difficult experiences. Using present day definitions, these include child neglect, emotional abuse and physical abuse. I hope that the seriousness of my situation will highlight some key lessons.

My Opinions

I should also point out that I don’t have any formal qualifications in child care, so the opinions and advice I give in the book and website are entirely based on my own experiences. These include my time as a young carer, an adult carer, and in various jobs.

I don’t claim to know all the answers, but I do believe others can learn from my successes and mistakes. I’ve made both in equal amounts. I have experienced a range of emotions, which has been evident from my behaviour at different times in my life. I am not an angel and equally not a bad guy, just someone trying to do his best.

I also want to make it absolutely clear that I do not want or expect sympathy for my experiences. In many ways I have been very fortunate, and my life could have been much tougher. I know some readers will have had, or might still be having, far more difficult experiences than mine.

Potential Other Readers

As well as young carers, the book and website may also be of interest to others, including:

Adult Carers

  • Adult carers.
  • Adults who have been young carers in the past.
  • Children who have experienced neglect or traumatic childhoods.
  • Children who live with a mentally ill parent.
  • Children and adults who have experienced a family member’s suicide.
  • Adults who have a mentally ill family member.
  • Medical and health care professionals.

Message to Young Carers

If you are a young carer and you have read this far, I hope you are prepared to go a bit further. I have tried to keep the book and website brief and to the point. If you don’t want to read them, fair enough, it’s your choice. Never forget that … it’s your choice.