Jimmy, 14 years old
Jimmy lives with his mum and brother Ben who is severely autistic. Even though Jimmy is the youngest he has to act like an older brother most of the time. Jimmy is Ben’s only friend and they like playing together, but it always has to be Ben’s game and Jimmy often feels frustrated that Ben doesn’t understand his wants and feelings. Jimmy cannot have friends’ round because of Ben and mum is often busy helping Ben so he does his homework by himself and often gets his own breakfast. He helps mum get things ready so they can leave the house on time, as Ben has a long routines. Jimmy gives his mum lots of hugs as she is often tired and stressed from helping Ben.
Be Free Young Carers has given Jimmy the opportunity to meet other young carers who have siblings with autism and/or other learning difficulties. He feels understood when with them and can talk about what frustrates and confuses him openly. He also loves getting out the house on our trips!
Safia, 14 years old
Safia lives with her parents and 3 sisters, one of whom, Anika, has a has a rare condition that means she can’t see or hear very well and sometimes has seizures. Anika is very anxious and does not like change or leaving the house. She refuses to go to school and her parents worry a lot about her. Safia loves Anika but has to do a lot for her, and has to look after her other siblings while their parents are helping Anika. Safia needs to study for school but is often tired or busy caring for her siblings, so she doesn’t get much school work done at home. She wishes she had more time to go out and see her friends but feels guilty for leaving her family when Anika needs help.
Going on trips with Be Free Young Carers has given Safia the chance to do something different and socialise with other teens. Safia spoke to our Support Workers who recommended some great self-help apps that keep Saifa calm when everything gets too frustrating.
Connor, 10 years old
Connor lives with his mum and dad. Connor’s mum has severe back pain so cannot move around much or for very long. His mum hates this and struggles to keep depression at bay. While at school, Connor worries a lot whether his mum is alright or in pain and wants to go home and check on her constantly. Because of this he can’t focus in school and often gets told off for not paying attention. Connor goes to breakfast and after school club as his dad works and no one else can walk him home. When at home Connor will fetch things and keep mum company. He wants to do more but his dad won’t let him because he’s only 8. He often feels lonely as dad spends a lot of time caring for mum.
Connor took part in Be Free Young Carers befriending program, which has taken the pressure of his parents and given Connor someone he can talk to about his worries. He can’t wait for each befriending meet up, where him and a trained volunteer befriender go out somewhere different, like the park to play football, something Connor wouldn’t be able to do otherwise.
Young Carers Virtual Q & A with Sir Ed Davey
In March 2021, pupils from Didcot Girls School attended an Online Q & A session with Sir Ed Davey, the current leader of the Liberal Democrat party. The event gave Young Carers at the School the opportunity to listen to Sir Ed speak about the experiences he had as a Young Carer when he was a student.
The pupils asked some great questions about the support he had available, his political career and his wider interests. Hepzibah in Year 9 has written about her experiences attending the event:
‘Be Free Young Carers’ is a charity working to provide support and opportunities for young carers in Oxfordshire. They arranged for some of the young carers from Didcot Girls School to virtually meet with Sir Ed Davey, the current leader of the Liberal Democrats. Ed spoke to us about his own experience as a young carer. He looked after his mother who was ill with bone cancer until she sadly passed away when he was only 15. Currently he cares for his son John who has an undiagnosed neurological condition which means he can’t walk or talk. This now makes his daughter Ellie a young carer too.
After talking to us about his own experiences we were given an opportunity to ask him questions. I asked about his other interests outside of politics. It turns out that Ed enjoys swimming with his children and listening to music. He described his music taste as very “Radio 2”, he proceeded to read us his playlist which featured everything from ABBA to Coldplay.
I also asked him what would have helped him more when he was a young carer and what support he wished he would have had when his mother passed. He explained that not only would having someone ask him how he was coping but also having someone at school that was designated to support young carers would have benefited him. This highlights why it is so important to have a young carers lead at schools and why Be Free Young Carers is campaigning for every school in the UK to have one.
You can sign the petition below.
Thanks Hephzibah, for summarising the highlights of the event! Spare a couple of minutes to sign the petition and support the campaign that Hephzibah has described.
These are examples of our Young Carers, we have however changed details to protect their identity; they demonstrate what we see on a daily basis.