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Key strategy launch to help young carers

PUBLISHED: 10:16 23 April 2010 | UPDATED: 17:09 06 July 2010

MORE than 5,000 young people in Suffolk are acting as carers for family members, a charity has warned.

There are fears that those looking after sick and disabled relatives are missing out on education, socialising with friends and vital support - and that many of them are not seeking help.

MORE than 5,000 young people in Suffolk are acting as carers for family members, a charity has warned.

There are fears that those looking after sick and disabled relatives are missing out on education, socialising with friends and vital support - and that many of them are not seeking help.

Today, a major strategy, Think Family Carers, is being launched to encourage greater cooperation between Suffolk County Council, the health service and voluntary organisations including Suffolk Family Carers, Age Concern and other charities to help carers.

The key principle is that first and foremost young carers are children and young people who have a right to take part in everyday experiences.

The strategy is designed to ensure no young person is disadvantaged because they have taken on a caring role for a family member.

Jacqui Martin, chief executive of Suffolk Family Carers is launching the new strategy today, to help family carers of any age get the right support at the right time.

She said the 98,000 family carers in Suffolk save the county £707 million by taking responsibility for the care of a relative and as a result it is important to ensure everything is being done to support them.

With experience working at a regional and national level Mrs Martin said Suffolk is really “leading the way” with the work being done in the county to help carers.

She said: “This is really a drive to get all agencies, both statutory and voluntary to work more closely together to support family carers.

“Family carers in Suffolk have been called the hidden workforce, working all hours many times without recognition, without holidays and without pay.

“They need to be valued, supported and acknowledged and these two action plans go a long way to doing that.

“No one plans to be a family carer, caring can start at a very young age and young carers if unrecognised can experience anxieties, difficulty at school, reduced social opportunities and later on sometimes restricted employment opportunities.

“We need to enable family carers to also have a life of their own whether that be a young carer who should be able to reach their full potential or an adult who may wish to continue to work, have interests of their own or to have regular breaks from their caring role.”

She said the new strategy will “definitely bring about better working partnerships and a greater awareness of the needs of carers.”

The strategy focuses on all aspects of a carer's life, their needs at school, in employment, in the health service, as well as their need for a break.

Project manager at Suffolk Young Carers, Andrew Bass, said although there are around 5,000 known young carers in Suffolk he estimates there are thousands more who are not seeking help.

The figures are based on the last census asking people the question “Are you a carer?”

Mr Bass said: “Most of the people that call our helpline do not identify themselves as carers. They just say they are a brother, sister, son or daughter.

“This is just the tip of the iceberg. We want more people to realise there is a support network out there to help them.”

Case Study - Miriam and Catherine's experiences

Miriam, 14, and Catherine Paddon, 16 are young carers. Ever since they can remember they have helped look after a relative, who has cancer.

Offering both practical support when he is ill as well as emotional support the sisters have turned to others going through similar experiences for help.

The teenagers, who live with their mum Liz in Broomhill Road, visit Suffolk Young Carers to seek advice from support workers and meet other people in the same boat.

Miriam said: “Obviously I don't know any different, it is more about how I have got different worries and concerns from my friends at school.

“Suffolk Young Carers is brilliant, whenever I need a break or just want to know I am not the only one going through this I can go and speak to other people there.”

And her sister Catherine added: “For me it (Suffolk Young Carers) is really important. It is a constant, it is not in your face but it is always there if you need it, if you can't cope.

“The support workers can help you see you can cope and you are capable of getting through, however tough it gets.

“They do amazing work and I really want other people to realise they are there for people in similar situations to mine. You can get the great support you need.”

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