Shining a spotlight: Life as a young carer during the coronavirus pandemic

By ITV Central Producer, Monifa Bobb-Simon

The responsibility of being a carer can be incredibly difficult and arguably that's, even more, the case in the current climate.

But what about young carers? The latest research has found 2 in 5 say their mental health is worse because of the pandemic.

Well, just before it started, we'd filmed with Oliver Tindell from Worcestershire. He's only 10 but supports his mum in caring for his older sister.

Oliver says he has felt the impact of the pandemic when his sister Alicia goes into hospital, while he must stay at home.

He said: "I don't get to spend time with her. You've got to stay home and do something to get your mind off lockdown and all of this stuff going on."

Mum Katie says the family have coped well over this period, but it's come with its challenges.

Credit: Family photo

The pandemic has stopped Alicia from accessing support services like going to respite.

Katie said: "She hasn't had that break from us as well as us having that break from her care. She would go for a sleep, a bath, which she absolutely loves and have her time with her friends.

She doesn't do that anymore or have sensory play, or just a break really from what goes on with her day to day with hospital appointments."

The results of a Carers Trust survey into the impact of Coronavirus on young carers aged 12 to 17 and young adult carers aged 18 to 25 was published in July 2020.

They point to a steep decline in the mental health and wellbeing of the hundreds of thousands of young people across the UK who provide unpaid care at home for family members or friends.

Some key findings:

Blog post, by Jonathan Cawdron, Worcestershire Young Carers

The pandemic has impacted Worcestershire Young Carers in a number of key ways. Not least, as young people, they have had to go through the same restrictions in terms of school closures, social distancing, and the general fears and anxieties that have come with covid 19’s real threat to life.

It is fair to say that, for those within a care role, these issues have been magnified due to the fact that many come from homes where a sibling or a parent sit within the highest risk bracket, raising the fear that if the young carer within the household steps outside, they are putting members of their family at increased risk.

This is of course juxtaposed by the fact that they often have no option but to go outside as they are the only member of the household who can do the shopping or collect a prescription etc. To make matters more difficult, at the beginning of lockdown, our young people were reporting examples of discrimination within supermarkets, where security and store employees were questioning why a child would be doing the shopping alone.

In some cases they were even turned away, fuelled by the misconception that ‘kids were making things worse by hanging around on the street’.

With regards to social isolation, this was increased for many of our young people. Those that did not attend school clearly limited their ability to spend time with friends.

Though this can be said of all young people, the experience can be negatively enhanced for a young person who say, cares for a parent with mental health or dependency issues who themselves are not coping. This quickly becomes a very lonely and isolating experience.

A Government spokesperson said: “Young carers make an invaluable contribution by looking after their loved ones and we want to thank them during these unprecedented times."

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