I didn’t really twig that I was a carer for about two years; I’d had the word bandied around, and was receiving counselling, but it was always in the context of “this horrible thing is happening to your mum, that must be hard for you too”.
It wasn’t until I was watching 2011’s Children in Need when they played a segment about children caring for their parents played out with the phrase “over 100,000 children in the UK provide care for a friend or relative” that it really hit me - that was me. I was a ‘Child in Need’. I wasn’t the only teenager going through something like this.
Mine is just one story of many, and it’s just one example of why we need better recognition and understanding of unpaid carers; particularly young carers (under 18) and young adult carers (16-25), as lack of awareness can increase the already painful social isolation carers often experience.
When YCs and YACs are identified, they need to be signposted to groups of peers their own age so they don’t feel so alone - these groups can be hard to find locally, but several charities have virtual networks that can be joined nationwide.
Teachers and university staff often have the most contact with young people other than their parents, and can be crucial in identifying potential carers; yet many are not provided with the training to do so.
Everyone should be aware of what being a carer can be like, whether that’s so they can self-identify and access support if they become a carer, so they can support a friend who is a carer, or just be more understanding of why some of their friends can’t do ‘normal’ things, like hang out after school.