Being a young carer is extremely tough and there is no reason for you to try to manage alone. You deserve support and there are various people and organisations you can approach to get help.
I have made some suggestions regarding the order that you speak to people, but you may decide to do things differently, depending on the difficulties associated with your situation.
Regardless of what support you get from anyone else, it’s good to chat about your caring role with your friends. Talking through your challenges with people you trust will reduce your feelings of being alone. Your friends will provide emotional support, even if that is simply listening to you chat about your experiences.
Speaking to Your Family
If you have a good relationship with your family, then these are the first people you should speak to. Some family members may not know about your role as a young carer, or if they do, they may not fully understand the difficulties you face. You could complete Chapter Eight – Tell Your Story before you speak to them so that you prepare everything you want to say. Hopefully they will listen to you and offer support. However, if they try to avoid the problem, or say it is your responsibility, I suggest you look elsewhere for support.
Speaking to Teachers
Some schools now have a formal policy which states how they can support young carers, but even schools that don’t have a formal policy will be aware of the issue. If you feel that your role as a young carer is affecting your school life, then you should speak to a teacher that you trust. You could also speak to a teacher if you have not received support from family and you are unsure how to get help. Again, it will probably help if you complete Chapter Eight – Tell Your Story before you speak to them.
Organisations to Approach
There are various organisations you can approach for help and support. Some of these are charities, whilst others are part of the National Health Service (NHS). Each of these organisations has considerable experience in advising and supporting young carers. The details of these organisations are:
Carers Trust works to improve support, services and recognition for anyone living with the challenges of caring, unpaid, for a family member or friend who is ill, frail, disabled or has mental health or addiction problems. They do this with a UK-wide network of quality assured independent partners, through unique online services and through the provision of grants to help carers get the extra help they need to live their own lives.
With locally based Network Partners, they are able to support carers in their homes through the provision of replacement care, and in the community with information, advice, emotional support, hands on practical help and access to much-needed breaks. They offer specialist services for carers of people of all ages and conditions, and a range of individually tailored support and group activities. A description of their activities with young carers can be seen at the following webpage: www.carers.org/what-young-carer. This webpage allows users to search for carer activities in their area, and gives contact details for those local projects. Alternatively, to find your nearest Network Partner, call 0844 800 4361.
Carers UK gives expert advice, information and support, connects carers so no one has to care alone, and campaigns for lasting change. To get information and advice on caring, visit www.carersuk.org, phone the Carers UK Adviceline: 0808 808 7777 (Monday to Friday, 10am-4pm) or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Children's Society
The Children’s Society is a national charity that runs local projects, helping children and young people who are at their most vulnerable. The Children’s Society provides support for young carers across the UK and runs a programme called Include, which is specifically for young carers. The website is: http://www.childrenssociety.org.uk/what-we-do/helping-children/young-carers.
NHS Choices is an NHS run service that provides advice across many areas. They have a general webpage for all carers, which is:
NHS Choices also has a specific webpage for young carers which explains the rights of young carers, allows users to search for carer activities in their area, and provides contact details for local projects. This website is:
NHS Choices runs a free telephone service called Carers Direct which provides advice to both adult and young carers. The phone number for Carers Direct is: 0300 1231053.
NSPCC (National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children)
The NSPCC is a children's charity in the UK, specialising in child protection and dedicated to the fight for every childhood. They work to safeguard children at risk of abuse and neglect. The NSPCC website is: www.nspcc.org.uk
The NSPCC runs a free telephone service called Childline which allows children to speak to a counsellor regarding any problems they have, including challenges they might face as a young carer.
The Childline website is: www.childline.org.uk/info-advice/
The Childline phone number is: 0800 1111
Samaritans is a charity that offers support to people who are struggling to cope, round the clock, every day. People can phone their helpline and talk to a volunteer about any challenges that may be upsetting them. The Samaritans volunteer will listen and support them to talk sensitively through their options and explore their feelings. If specialist help is needed, Samaritans can direct the caller to other sources of support.
The Samaritans website is: www.samaritans.org which gives details of local branches.
The Samaritans helpline number is: 116123
People can text Samaritans for support on: 07725 909090 or email at: email@example.com
In Chapter Seven – Know Your Rights I mentioned that local councils (who are often called local authorities) are responsible for ensuring that people who need care are receiving care, and that carers are being supported. You could try approaching your local authority directly, but it can be difficult to find the right person to speak to. Therefore I suggest you first speak with your family, teachers and/or organisations listed above, so they can help communicate with local authorities. When you do communicate with a local authority, you can request one of the assessments that are described in Chapter Seven – Know Your Rights.