We recently received this heart warming testimonial from Simon, a 13 year old young carer…
A carer is someone who cares
Can I ask you all to look at a person across the room who you wouldn’t normally look at? Do you know their name? Do you know their date of birth? Do you know if they look after a close family member who is seriously ill? It is estimated there are around 700,000 carers aged 5-17 in the UK. Is their sibling ill with a life threatening disease? Does their mother have a mental illness that means she hears voices? Is their father too weak to get out of bed? Young carers should be supported by the government.
A carer is someone who cares for a close family member, unpaid. A carer has many extra responsibilities to aid and look after that relative. There are many young carers. A survey of more than 4,000 UK school pupils found 1 in 12 had moderate or high levels of caring responsibility. That means in a class of 30, there are on average, roughly 3 young carers. In my form I know of 3 young carers. There may be more but here are 3 examples that are pupils in 8.7.
The first carer isn’t a carer anymore but he cared for his mother while she was waiting for an organ donor to give her a kidney. For several years she went to hospital for dialysis. Can you imagine every day waking up knowing that your mother was only being kept alive by machinery and there was a chance she could die at any moment? When she gets ill then you become slightly depressed. When she is doing well, that is when, in the back of your mind, you know she could suddenly get worse at any point. Do you think that this is the right thing for children as young as five to be worrying about non-stop?
It has an impact on their whole life, not just at home. A young carer is one and a half times more likely to have a mental illness or a special education need. Young carers are a lot more likely to get worse grades than average pupils and way worse than their potential. Sometimes they will miss school due to their caring role. Is this fair; a worse future just because they cared for someone enough to miss out on their life. Are you as sacrificing as a young carer?
Another example is a girl whose younger sister has many food intolerances. If she were to eat a slice of cake or a cheese cracker then she would be hospitalised for up to a fortnight. Have you had to pack a “hospital” bag for things to do in the waiting room while you’re trying to see you brother or sister? Have you travelled there 7 days a week to make sure that your sibling is ok? Have you ever been the cause of hospitalising your sibling? How many times? These are the questions that impact amazingly determined young carers. They are doing so much good but they focus on the few things that they did wrong. They find themselves asking “Would she be as ill if I asked her to pass me the cheese?”
I would like to say that both examples so far and the one to come would agree that they would not like you to go asking them, “are you alright?” as this is their life. They live with this every day. It is normal. If you want to do something to help then stand up for a carer who doesn’t have anyone to help them. If someone is picking on a carer for their home circumstances then call them out and explain that it is wrong. If someone makes a mean remark behind a child’s back, then tell them to take it back. If they think it’s “just some light hearted humour” then they are wrong. If it’s light hearted humour then the person who it was aimed at wouldn’t
mind but chances are that they will mind. If they do mind then they won’t show it to anyone other than themselves even though it slowly crushes their spirit and moral.
My last example hits very close to home. My last example is me. I experienced this. Some of you may have seen my mother in a wheelchair. My mother has many physical and mental health disorders such as diabetes, fibromyalgia, and psychosis to name only a few. She is one of the most determined people I know and she found a way to redirect the pain, force herself to do more than she should be able to do and live with these conditions. But my dad, my sister and I all helped her along. I have helped her to get dressed in the morning, get breakfast, and do the laundry and other tasks to help her and to share the burden of house hold burdens. I have pushed a wheelchair since I was 6 with my sister on her knee because we couldn’t manage a wheelchair and pushchair at the same time. I had to keep my sister calm when the ambulance came to take my mother to hospital. She needed to go to hospital because she was screaming in unbelievable agony. Because my dad was busy battling for the medical care and help needed, I was left to explain the psychological effects of morphine to my little sister, 3 times in 1 week. There are also my mother’s psychotic episodes. These make her behave in ways which she would never normally behave. It can be funny and I play with her while she is behaving as a toddler and join in with the silliness. Other times it can be stressful and I talk her out of ringing my dad’s boss for fun. Although these highs and lows are on the extreme side, this is not dissimilar to looking after a small child. This isn’t me fishing for sympathy; this is me giving you my reality.
Now all three examples I have given you have a happy, or at least ok, ending. In the first example the mother got a new kidney solving the need for help. The second carer received help from social services. I go to a group called ‘Triniteens’, run by Wigan & Leigh Young Carers charity, where I am able to meet up with other people in the same situation. Also my mother now has paid carers who come to do the necessities such as getting her dressed, washing her, getting her a bowl of cereal and so on. All of these examples have up beat endings but many others are not so fortunate. In all of my examples there is a mother, a father, the carer and a sister to share the load between them. In many there is only the young carer and an ill parent.
In reality the government should do more to pick out the cases that deserve attention, and then to help that family. Without this the government is letting children’s whole lives be taken from them. Through inaction the lives and future of 700,000 children are being ripped from them all because the children care. Maybe everyone should have the courage, willpower and determination of these children. Maybe the government should be ashamed of all the good that these small children are doing, because the government is busy squabbling and moaning about which country’s steel is better. Maybe, instead of debating Jeremy Corbin’s shabby clothes, they could devote just half an hour in the House of Commons to raise awareness for children in this kind of predicament and give a way to be acknowledged and a place to get help. Maybe we should all be just as hard working, kind and caring as any young carer. Maybe we should do our bit.
A carer is someone who cares for a close family member, unpaid. A carer is someone who cares’.
This speech was written and presented, in front of the class, for an English project. The pupils were asked to choose a topic of their choice. I chose something that I chose strongly about: young carers.
Simon – 13, Young Carer, July 2016