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"Being a young carer limits what other things you can do"

In the UK 700,000 kids care for adults. Is it not time we gave young carers a break?

As children across the country write letters to Santa and look forward to school holidays, for others Christmas is an especially difficult time. There are around 700,000 young carers in the UK, some as young as five, who care for one or more of their relatives for up to 50 hours per week. At Christmas they have extra responsibilities and can feel isolated when apart from school friends.

Create is an arts charity that runs creative projects giving young carers a break from their daily routines and an outlet to express themselves. Here are the stories of some of the people Create has worked with.

Chris, aged 13

Chris cares for his mother, who has cancer, and attended a drama workshop in Merton.

My mum’s cancer is terminal and she is often at the point where she can get upset. All I can do is help her out as much as I can. Sometimes she has to go to hospital in an emergency, sometimes she isn’t feeling well. I have a lot of responsibilities but I don’t mind. I want her to know that her son is doing good in life and to make her proud.

For the drama project we were writing and performing monologues, which had to show two emotions, so I did happy and angry. I learned that every story has a problem and a resolution, a bad part and a good part, and we had to put that into the monologue.

I learned that I can work with new people who I don’t know. If you meet new people you have more friends, and the more friends you have you feel like you’re in a world where people can help you.

Sometimes she has to go to hospital in an emergency, sometimes she isn’t feeling well. I have a lot of responsibilities

What can you do?

  • For more information and to support the work of Create visit createarts.org.uk/support-us
  • Support services such as Carers Trust and Carers UK assist with advice and support through helplines, forums and assessments.
  • They also have links to local organisations, which provide information about volunteering opportunities.

Rachael, aged 15

Rachael cares for her mother, who has Parkinson’s. She took part in a photography project in Nottingham.

Time away from my caring responsibilities lets me be a teenager. People’s idea of a teenager is playing on gadgets, hanging out with mates, not coming in until late, spending money. When I explain what I do for my mum, and that I’ve been doing it since I was 11, people say I do a lot but it’s natural for me, part of my everyday routine.

Being creative always calms me down. By taking a picture I don’t have to speak, read or write and worry about spelling or saying things wrong. I can just let the picture speak for me. When you’re thinking about taking pictures of things you see them in a different light. Things you’d normally walk past if you were rushing around town getting to where you wanted to be are really interesting when you stop and think about them. Seeing people enjoying parts of town you think of as normal is amazing.

We used different camera techniques, different heights, different angles, to make everyday things, like plants and bushes, look like somewhere other than Nottingham.

Suganthi, aged 11

Suganthi cares for her mother and aunt who both have multiple sclerosis, an aunt who uses a wheelchair and her grandfather. She goes to workshops in Redbridge.

I started caring when I was five or six. I was an energetic little girl but I realised my mum couldn’t keep up so I started helping her. My aunt has carers but I have to help her because they’re not there all the time. Going out with friends is hard. I need to be around my family because we have to know if they are tired. Sometimes it’s hard to be yourself because being a young carer limits what other things you can do.

Normally I’m quite shy about performing but I have picked up skills in the workshop about being confident

In the workshops we’ve been doing singing, dancing, acting and working together to make songs and play around with them. I’ve learnt to project my voice, play different beats on the cajon and other drums, and how to write songs.

We get to be ourselves, move around, improvise. Normally I’m quite shy about performing but I have picked up skills in the workshop about being confident. It’s fun – to get to learn people’s personalities, strengths and weaknesses and help them out. You can relate to other young carers. Some people just don’t understand what you’re going through. You can connect more with other young carers and it’s easier to build friendships.

My mum and grandfather both used to sing and act. I’m sure they’ll be proud to hear about what I’ve been doing.

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