“We need to speak more about the successes of young carers.”
Many people often assume that young carers do not have the same opportunities as those without caring duties but, according to 17-year-old carer Samantha, this is simply not true.
Samantha, who is supported by Action for Young Carers in Nottingham, has been caring for her Dad since she was 11 years old and believes that “young carers could be better supported by showing them the successes other young carers have had despite their caring role.”
A common theme for many young carers is having a lack of time to split between their school studies and caring duties. Samantha told us:
“I found, through experience, that I was capable of providing a good amount of care, but it lead to new worries about keeping up with studies whilst maintaining a good level of care.”
Due to his physical disability, Samantha’s dad cannot stand for long periods of time and also finds it difficult to move heavy objects. For this reason, Samantha has to carry out a number of household tasks every day, which includes cooking meals for both herself and her dad, taking out the rubbish and doing washing loads.
Despite having more pressures on her time compared with other students her age, Samantha remains positive about her caring role and is keen to point out that she wants to take care of her dad.
“I hope my caring role has mainly positive impacts on my life, not negative. In taking care of my dad I’ve learnt life skills surrounding cooking, cleaning and independence and although I missed out on a fair bit of school due to my caring role, this only impacted my education slightly as my grades were not affected in the long run.”
The outstanding commitment of young carers
Commitment to education is something which a lot of young carers take very seriously and, even though many will admit it’s tough to balance home and school life, there are lots of positive role models out there who have made it work.
We connected with Chloe Rollings, who won Young Adult Carer of the Year at last year’s Pride of Our Carers Awards, over Twitter and asked about her achievements whilst continuing with her caring duties.
Not only did Chloe receive a first class honours degree in LLB Law in September 2018, she was also awarded the District Judge Richard Toombes Award for Outstanding Engagement by the University of Lincoln. She is a fantastic example of what young carers can achieve with hard work and determination.
Our social channels also put us in touch with Faith, who dropped out of university a few years ago to take care of her Dad but has come out shining on the other side.
Faith returned to university at a later date and earned a 2:1 degree, helping her to land a PR job she loves in Manchester and proving that anything is possible if you have the determination to do it.
“I want to do well in life”
The Al-Dean Saleem’s are a family of 6 young carers who are members of Action for Young Carers in Nottingham. Deanah (20), Sarah (16), Marwa (14), Safa (14), Dunyah (12) and Aaliyah (9) all take care of their Mum who is living with Spondylosis, as she is unable to carry out daily tasks independently.
As well as attending school and completing homework, each of the siblings split various household tasks between them, with Deanah and Sarah preparing their mum’s medication whilst the younger children help with other chores such as hoovering the stairs, tidying up and bringing their mum food or drinks.
Even though there are 6 of them caring for their mum, all the siblings agree that there is a lot of pressure and stress associated with being a carer and that the lives of young carers are often misunderstood by others – especially when they have to decline social outings because of their caring duties.
Despite the pressures of school and home life however, when we asked the siblings “If you could wish one thing for yourself, what would it be?” the answers were touching, yet also determined:
“For us all to always be happy” (Aaliyah - 9)
“Make me and my family proud, make a difference and do well in life” (Dunyah - 12)
“To succeed” (Safa - 14)
“Make us all have fun and do activities” (Marwa - 14)
“Do well in life, succeed and look after my family” (Sarah - 16)
“Do well in life and make my family proud” (Deanah - 20)
The Al-Dean Saleem’s are clearly a strong family unit, and a fantastic example of how having the right support is essential for young carers. Being members of Action for Young Carers also enables the family to take a break from caring by participating in various activities and provides them with the opportunity to talk to others in similar situations – both of which are essential to their physical and mental health.
In short, we believe that although young carers have more pressures at home and school, they can still make the most of the opportunities given to them if that is something they want to pursue. Support groups like Action for Young Carers are a vital lifeline for young people in a caring role and more awareness needs to be raised about the important work they do, but Samantha is right – there are plenty of young carer success stories out there that need to be celebrated and by sharing these successes, other members of the young carer community can be inspired towards a bright future.
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- April 2nd 2019