Wigan celebrates Young Carers Awareness Day
The trials of childhood can be tough at the best of times, but negotiating growing up while also being a carer puts an enormous weight on young shoulders.
Fortunately, for the youngsters in the borough who find themselves in this difficult and unenviable position, Wigan and Leigh Young Carers is here to help.
And on Young Carers Awareness Day we are shining a spotlight on both the charity and the remarkable people who spend their childhood looking after a family member with a serious medical condition.
The charity has an array of support mechanisms and services available for carers aged between five and 24 and is reliant for much of its work on funding grants and donations from kind-hearted supporters.
As young carers are highlighted across the country the charity is keen to raise awareness of just how difficult life for them can be.
Paul Carroll, Wigan and Leigh Young Carers’ project manager, said: “Young carers are a potentially vulnerable and often-unrecognised group in society.
“They can be unfairly disadvantaged due to their caring role, which can have a significant impact on their academic achievement and their future economic wellbeing as an adult.
“The responsibility of caring may be having a serious impact on their lives, both physically and emotionally.
“It can prevent them from attending school on a regular basis, affect their ability to do homework, promote feelings of isolation, lead to depression and an inability to make friends.
“They can suffer low self-esteem due to feeling different from their peers and are prone to being bullied.
“They have very little leisure time to be able to enjoy and achieve and are often tired and worried.
“They can have little opportunity for creative leisure and learning activities outside normal school hours.”
The charity says the borough’s young carers are looking after parents, grandparents and siblings suffering from physical disabilities, sensory impairments, substance misuse issues, learning disabilities, mental ill health or a chronic or life-limiting illness such as cancer.
Young carers can be referred to the charity by the council, schools, health organisations or other charities. Youngsters struggling with their burden of caring can also refer themselves.
A support worker will assess the family and then a package to assist them will be put together.
Wigan and Leigh Young Carers runs multiple fortnightly and monthly after-school support groups where youngsters of a similar age and in a similar situation can meet.
There are cooking clubs and chill-out sessions run after school in the evenings and one-to-one befriending is offered.
Young carers in a difficult place can also be referred to counselling.
The charity also puts an emphasis on getting young carers out and about and having fun in precious free time, with activities such as trips to a zoo. Young carers who are also sports fans have been to watch Wigan Warriors play rugby league as well, even getting to meet a couple of stars of the 13-man code.
There are also residential trips to venues such as Hinning House in the Lake District where the young carers can stay for two or three nights to get away from their home situation in the spectacular outdoor scenery.
In addition families can have breaks together in a lodge at Marton Mere Holiday Village.
Training in topics such as emergency first aid is also offered, with fully-accredited qualifications for those between 16 and 24. The charity’s work is supported by organisations including
Wigan Council, Jigsaw Housing, The National Lottery, the People’s Health Trust, local Rotary clubs and BBC Children in Need, with businesses such as Co-op and TK Maxx also providing much-needed funding and generous individuals chipping in with cash.
However, the charity says it still needs more help, with volunteer drivers to take young people to the nine after-school groups run across Wigan borough particularly required.
Sessions run for around three hours from between 4pm and 5pm to between 7pm and 8pm.
Across the UK it is thought as many as one in five children or young people could be taking on some kind of caring role.
They may have to do practical tasks such as cooking, housework or shopping, physical care including helping someone get into and out of bed, or emotional support like talking to someone who is distressed.
Young carers might have to provide personal care, such as helping someone dress, manage a family budget and collect prescriptions, help someone receive their medicine or communicate if they have difficulties with that.
As well as helping someone who is unwell, the carer may also have to look after and support their brothers and sisters.
To refer a young carer to the charity or to express an interest in volunteering, ring 01942 679352 or email [email protected]