Thousands of young people in Devon are actively involved in providing care to family members with long term illnesses. They’re used to going the extra mile.
But now young carers in Devon are going further. They, and staff at Devon Young Carers, are running a marathon, the full 26.2 miles, to raise awareness of the vital role that young carers have in the care of others.
Children sometimes as young as four years old are having some role in caring for a sibling, parent or grandparent.
Some are taking on tasks, like shopping, cleaning and cooking family meals, as roles are shared between those able to carry them out.
“If unpaid carers are sometimes described as an ‘unseen army’ of people, providing care voluntarily for others, then young carers – those carers who under 18 years old – are almost off the radar to most people,”
says Councillor James McInnes, Devon County Council’s Cabinet Member with responsibility for children’s services.
“Young carers especially are a group that need support, and they are often overlooked. These are people, still children in some cases, whose young lives are dedicated to caring for someone else. It impacts on their education, their friendships, their health and mental wellbeing, and their opportunities to simply be a child. Yet they do so willingly, unquestioningly and with love.
“We are working with Devon Young Carers to support these children and young people. We want to raise people’s awareness of young carers, and we want professionals to think of them and accommodate for them in the services they provide, so that they are not overlooked.”
This Thursday, 31 January, is national Young Carers awareness day. The theme of the day is good mental health and wellbeing. Young carers and staff at Devon Young Carers will be donning running shoes to complete a marathon that day, to raise awareness of what they do.
Tom Humphreys, Young Carer Lead Practitioner, said:
“One in five secondary school-age children have active caring roles at home. With a quarter of people experiencing mental ill-health at some point in their lives, mental health support for young carers has never been so important.
“Last year we supported around 3,000 young carers in Devon, but we know there are a great many more young people not yet known to us who are involved in care to some extent. Our challenge is knowing who they are, so that we and Devon County Council can support them.”
“We are asking families in which a young person, under 18 years old, has a part in the provision of care to a family member, to contact Devon Young Carers,” says Cllr McInness. “Support is available to them to help them in many ways, and we want them to have the same opportunities to life as other young people.”
To find out more about support that is available to carers, young or adult carers, visit the Devon Carers website or telephone 03456 434 435.