Meet the young people with big responsibilities
YOUNG people who have to help for a relative can find themselves in a stressful situation with no-one to talk to. However groups exist to help them cope, as Mail reporter Elinor O’Neill discovered...
BEFORE his mum became ill Saxon Wilson-White thought that kids caring for their parents was only something that happened in the movies.
Now, at the tender age of 13, much of Saxon’s free time is taken up looking after his mother who has an illness which means she is mainly confined to the sofa.
Saxon, who lives in Welland Park Road in Harborough, cares for his mum during the week when his dad is away. This means making cups of tea and doing other jobs around the house.
He said: “There is a lot more responsibilty on me than I used to have. It is stopping me from seeing my friends as much but it hasn’t really taken away too much, just an hour or two out of the evening.”
Saxon has found some relief from his responsibilities thanks to the help of a young carers group that has been operating in Harborough since 2010.
Voluntary Action South Leicestershire’s Young Carers Activity Group meets once a fortnight at The Satellite Centre on the corner of Farndon Road and Coventry Road.
Hannah Currington, the group leader, said: “We think that it gives them a regular time-off from their caring responsibilities - two hours a fortnight when they can be themselves and do things that other teenagers take for granted.”
Saxon added: “I came here through the school because I kept on being unable to complete homework and do stuff handed to me by the school because I was having to look after my mum.”
“It helps me get away, helps me have time to myself – time to be able to enjoy myself a bit more. At home every so often I have to come down and do a job or make a cup of tea or just do something in general.”
Yolanda Loake (16), who helps to care for both her mum and dad has found that attending the group makes her a lot less stressed.
She lives in Arden Close, Harborough, and started coming to the group at age 13 after a referral by her school.
Her dad is blind and her mum has an illness that affects her balance.
Yolanda now aged 16, said: “Knowing there is lots of people that do the same thing as me was helpful and having that break is really nice.”
As well as hanging out at the centre, the group also ticks along with the help of their voluntary drivers to bring the young carers to and from activities that have included theme park trips and ice skating.
Mrs Currington said that although there are 15 people who attend the group, not all of them are able to make it for every session because of their caring responsibilities.
Yolanda said: “[Being a carer] is quite stressful and when you are out with your friends they don’t realise that you have responsibilities, that you can’t go to parties, that you have to go home. They don’t really understand it.
“It is difficult and you have to organise your time better and grow up a lot more than most people would.”
The group is for people from ages 11 to 18 and on the night the Mail visited there was a barbecue provided by the Co-op because Yolanda’s brother is leaving the group soon.
Another young person who has benefited from the group is Kylie Panter, of Rupert Road, Harborough, who helps to care for her brother.
She said: “He has been ill for some time. He has got brain damage, ADHD and autism and they’re looking for something else.”
The 16-year-old carer has been going to the group for several years and first found out about it after her mum spotted a leaflet.
Kylie said: “It helps to talk to other people that are in the same situation, it makes me feel as though I’m not on my own.”
Like Yolanda, Kylie finds life as a young carer stressful, particularly when she has homework as teachers at her school do not always know about her home situation.
Stacey Palmer (19), from Harborough, is a volunteer at the group who was herself a young carer before her father died.
She said: “I was a young carer myself when I was younger. I felt I wanted to give something back to the people who have been in the same situation as I was.”
Stacey started helping to care for her dad when she was just eightyears old. He had several strokes and by age 13, Stacey had to leave school to help look after him.
She said: “I’d help with the house-keeping, make sure my dad was all right, stuff that generally more grown-up people had to do, rather than a kid of the age that I was.”
Stacey attended a support group for young carers in Oadby before her dad died.
She said it helped improve her confidence and now she volunteers to help support people who are having similar experiences.
Although there are 15 young people who attend the Harborough group, there are far more young people who care for family members across the Harborough district.
The group has a waiting list and they are in desperate need of volunteer drivers to help get the young carers to and from the group.
Saxon said: “It is quite nice to find people that are more sympathetic to understand that some people have to care for family.
“I thought at first that caring for family was something in films.
“I didn’t think it really happened until I found out that this actually happened to people when it happened to me.”
* To become a volunteer driver or to find out more details about the Young Carers’ Group, phone Voluntary Action South Leicestershire on 01858 433232.
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Tuesday 21 May 2013
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