Over 60 local health, education, police, voluntary sector and local authority professionals have joined forces with Young Carers in Norfolk to celebrate Young Carers Awareness Day and the #CareForMeToo campaign.
Members of Norfolk Young Carers Forum hosted the event on Thursday 31st January 2019 at Dereham Town Football Club to reveal the results of their “Getting Our Voices Heard 2018” survey. The survey, produced and conducted by members of the Forum, invited young carers and young adult carers aged five to 25 from across the county to share their views on what it is like to be young carer or young adult carer in Norfolk.
With 218 responses, members of the Forum will use the results to highlight the issues young carers and young adult carers face locally and the impact this has on their mental health, whilst raising awareness amongst professionals about the support that would make caring easier for them.
Survey responses highlighted the importance of support and understanding with 51 per cent of respondents saying that no one in their school, college or workplace knew that they were a carer or young adult carer. Of the 49 per cent who said school, colleges or work did know of their caring role, only 36 per cent felt that they received support from them. 1 in 4 young carers has been bullied in school because of their caring role and 11 per cent felt that their caring role has impacted their attendance “a lot” with a further 24 per cent saying their attendance had sometimes been impacted.
Respondents went on to suggest what would make life easier for them in their school or work life with a focus on greater understanding, awareness and making adjustments to support them in their caring role. For some it is a case of “understanding that homework is hard to focus on, especially when being a young carer,” or that they “have bad days and may not be as concentrated as usual.” Amongst responses there were pleas for those in their school or work network to be “more aware of what a young carer is,” or to “teach others about being a carer so they are more educated.” Following this, respondents asked for support “allowing things like homework and other work to be slightly late if something happens at home.”
Kosy-Lee, a 12 year old member of Norfolk Young Carers Forum and a carer for his brother, is passionate about using the results of the survey to make changes in the way that young carers and young adult carers are supported locally:
“Tonight was a very good evening as it helped to raise awareness of Young Carers’ mental health. Going forward, I believe that all schools in Norfolk should have Young Carers awareness and hopefully the results of the survey will help this to happen.”
The evening went on to see Wymondham High Academy become the latest school in Norfolk to be awarded the Young Carer Friendly Tick Award, a standard designed by the Norfolk Young Carers Forum to recognise local schools and colleges for their good practice in identifying and supporting young carers. Lauren Sparrow, Young Carers Lead at Wymondham High Academy was delighted that their school has achieved the award:
“I feel extremely proud to be receiving this award on behalf of Wymondham High Academy this evening, as it feels like a year of hard work on the behalf of dedicated staff members and some of our young carers. It’s great to get some recognition for the support we are putting in place and it will help us continue to raise awareness in school. I really hope it encourages other local schools to follow suit.”
Andy McGowan, Operations Manager at Carers Trust Cambridgeshire, Peterborough, Norfolk reflects on the importance of the work of Norfolk Young Carers Forum and its members:
“On Young Carers Awareness Day it is absolutely vital to highlight not only the challenges that young carers are facing and the impact that these are having on their own mental health and wellbeing, but what our local education, health and statutory bodies can be doing to support them in school, at work or through our health service. With an estimated one in five secondary aged school children caring for someone – that’s almost 20,000 children and young people in Norfolk, this issue is not going away.
“Young carers across Norfolk have told us loud and clear what support they need and now it is time for actions to make a long-lasting difference. Education and health organisations have a key role to play in helping to identify young carers at the earliest possible opportunity, not when it hits crisis point. The fact that so far only six schools across Norfolk have achieved the Young Carer Friendly Tick Award highlights just how much work is yet to be done.”