Young people who take on the responsibilities of caring for ill or disabled family members are set to get more support from professionals dedicated to making their lives easier.
Nottinghamshire County Council is recruiting three dedicated support officers whose role will be to assess young people who care for a parent or sibling with a disability or illness to see if more support is needed for them and the person they look after.
In Nottinghamshire, 326 young carers aged between five to 18 years of age have benefitted from help and support since April 2014 - but there could be many more who need assistance and are yet to come forward.
One of the main ways that they are helped is through direct payments, which can be used to purchase computer equipment for educational purposes, internet access, driving or music lessons, or fund activities such as ballet, horse riding or visits to the cinema.
The support officers can also put in place a care package for the person being cared for so that the young carer is not carrying out care that is inappropriate for their age.
Councillor Joyce Bosnjak, the county council’s deputy leader and chairman of its health and wellbeing board, said: “Young carers become vulnerable when the level of care giving and responsibility is excessive so it’s vital that the council puts in place the right support to ensure they can enjoy their childhood.
“Effectively assessing a young carer’s needs can take a lot of time so I’m delighted we have in place officers who are focussed on this important work.”
The new posts will cost the council £109,204 a year.
To find out more about the support available to young carers contact the council on 0300 500 80 80 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
CASE STUDY: ‘We are just helping our mum’
“They don’t see themselves as carers, they see themselves as just helping their mum,” said dad-of-two Chris Brown, from Mansfield.
His sons Jacob, 12, and nine-year-old Oliver help him to care for his wife Rachel, who is physically disabled and suffers from seizures and mental health problems.
They make their mum drinks, bring her pillows and things she needs, and help with household chores, but they also know exactly what to do if Rachel, 36, takes ill with a seizure or is sick while Chris is out.
“They are absolutely wonderful, I am really blessed to have them,” she said.
“Anything I want they get for me, but they have seen some really scary situations when I have stopped breathing, when I am fitting, and they just deal
“I am really proud of them,” she added.
Life for the family has not always been easy but they are still living in their own home because of the essential help of Rachel’s personal care assistant Donna Parmer.
Rachel employs Donna for around 26 hours a week thanks to a direct payment from Nottinghamshire County Council.
This has enabled the family to have control over the care
Rachel needs by paying for help when they need it, giving them more flexibility and independence than they found with agency care.
It means Chris can take his sons out to the cinema or skate park or they can have a family day out with Donna’s help.
The boys also receive their own direct payment from the council and this enables them to have the ‘treats’ that many kids their age take for granted - such as computers, a television or a certain toy.
Chris, who suffers from health problems of his own, said: “I get a little bit conscious that they are missing out so we try and compensate for that.
“However it is shaping them into the people they are going to be. They have a caring nature and understand about disability.
“Everyone says they are kind-natured.”
Councillor Joyce Bosnjak, chairman of the council’s health and well-being board, said that the direct payment to the boys and other young carers allows them to ‘have a childhood’.
“The pair of them are remarkable young lads,” she said. “They take it in their stride because they don’t see themselves as carers, they are just looking after their mum.
“This is a reward but it’s also enabling them to still be children.”
Rachel said that the grants for home adaptations they have received, the direct payments from the council and the help from Donna - whom she calls her ‘guardian angel’ - all mean the family are living as normally as they can in the circumstances.
She would urge other people dealing with similar problems to get in touch with social services and see what help they can be given.
“You need to access the help and don’t struggle.
“It’s the difference between us staying together as a family and separating.”