As is the case with all the children Mike and I have looked after, telling Abby’s story has been something I’ve long wanted to do – not least to highlight the difficulties faced by the UK’s hidden army of young carers, and the toll it can take of a child’s mental health.
It’s a problem that’s not going away. In fact, it’s probably even worse than we realise. Where official statistics published in the 2004 census estimated there to be around 175,000 young carers in the UK, a survey conducted by the BBC in 2010 suggested a very different figure. They did a survey of over 4000 secondary school aged children and found that 1 in 12 of those asked had caring responsibilities, such as washing, dressing and bathing family members.
If the BBC’s figures are representative of the population as a whole it would put the figure for young carers at something approaching 700,000! What a sobering thought…
You can read the BBC report by following this link http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-11757907, but if you are a young carer yourself, or trying to support someone who is, take a look at some of the websites listed below for all sorts of useful help and advice, and don’t forget – Childline are only ever a phone call away: 0800 11 11.
A brilliant site for any child who is overwhelmed by their caring responsibilities, or just feels isolated and in need of support and advice. They also have regular live chat sessions for young carers so you wont feel so alone.
Part of The Children’s Society, this site provides information and resources for professionals who are supporting young carers, and is packed with useful information. They also run events nationwide and provide training.
See also www.macmillan.org.ku/YoungCarer for information and help targeted towards young people caring for someone with cancer, and www.barnardos.org.uk, who run a number of projects to help support young carers and their families.