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Supporting the 4,000 young carers across Cornwall

An estimated 4,000 people in Cornwall under the age of 25 are providing unpaid care for their families, according to data released ahead of Young Carers Awareness Day today (January 30).

They’re among 166,000 young people across the UK who are caring for family members. Young carers will have many more responsibilities than most young people, including things like helping someone get dressed, looking after siblings, managing the family budget, and helping out around the house.

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Billy is one of Cornwall’s Young Carers. He’s 14 years-old and supports his older brother who is autistic, and his mum who has a connective tissue disorder, which means simple tasks are painful and can wipe out her energy.

“I feel like I’ve got a lot of responsibility and that I always have to push myself to make everyone happy” he said.

“Usually I get up in the morning and get mum ready with a cup of tea, some water and her pills and then I usually get myself and my brother ready for school.  After school I come home, help mum by doing the washing, then putting a load in the tumble drier and cooking the tea. 

“If there is nothing in the cupboard I will go to the shops, because mum can’t really carry stuff that is heavy and then do the dishes, before prepping myself for the next day and that’s a typical day.”

Billy is a member of Kernow Young Carers, an Action for Children project commissioned by Cornwall Council to provide support, activities and support groups for young carers up to 25 years-old who look after parents/carers, siblings and other family members.

The service is aimed at making sure young carers have the same opportunities as all young people. This includes information, advice and guidance, activities and trips, short breaks, support groups, and support in schools.

Billy’s mum, Elizabeth, said: “Billy is my right-hand man; I don’t know what I would do without him. He is always there - he is my strength. 

“I do feel very guilty when really he should be a little boy doing what he likes, when he likes. I also want to be the mum that runs with him, climbs with him, dances with him and do all the things he loves, but I can’t. That does put pressure on us, especially if I’ve had a bad day and haven’t been able to move very far and he comes home from school and the dishes are still in the sink, I do feel guilty.”

Over 700 young carers supported by Kernow Young Carers are referred due to their parent’s health problems, which can include disability or long-term illness. Nearly 500 young people care for a sibling, and 180 care for parents with mental health problems such as depression and anxiety.

Other reasons for young people becoming carers include parental substance misuse, caring for a grandparent who lives in the family home, and young adult carers who care for a partner.

Councillor Sally Hawken, Cabinet Portfolio Holder for Children & Young People said: “This Young Carer’s Awareness Day today, we are taking the opportunity to raise awareness of the information and support available to young carers in Cornwall. 

“Young carers don’t always realise that they are a young carer; helping with medication, cooking, cleaning, or helping to dress the person they look after; it can be a lot of pressure and our aim is to support them through everyday life and the pressures of looking after someone else.” 

Kernow Young Carers regularly attend schools to give information to pupils about the support available. They help schools to identify and support young carers and can also offer one-to-one support where the caring role is having a significant impact on their own welfare and opportunities. They run activities in the holidays to give young carers a break from their caring role and have access to funding to give young carers a trip out on their own or with the person they care for.

Billy said: “Kernow Young Carers mean a lot to me because they help me to feel like a child again and they enable me to drop the adult responsibility.”

If you are a young carer or know one, please contact Kernow Young Carers on 01872 321 486.

Referrals to Kernow Carers Service (Adults and children) can be made by calling 0800 587 8191.

The Young Carers Service is on Facebook at Kernow Young Carers.