Young carers in Northern Ireland feel 'lonely and isolated' during summer months

Summer holidays may be a time for some rest and relaxation, but the reality for many young carers is very different. New research suggests that eight out of ten young carers here suffer from increased loneliness during the summer months.

Kirsty Browne, 18, cares for her younger brother Lexie who was diagnosed with autism four years ago. "He’s my younger brother, he’s sixteen and I’m eighteen. "The main thing I do is help calm him down after he’s been overwhelmed or had sensory overload, and just make sure he’s in a safe environment." During the summer months when she’s out of school, Kirsty’s caring role increases significantly. On a regular day at college, Kirsty spends around four hours helping her brother Lexie as he prepares for school in the morning and when they’re both back in the house in the evening before he goes to bed. These hours are doubled in the summer holidays, as Kirsty can spend anywhere up to eight hours a day supporting him. She admits that the increase in responsibility can lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness. "When you’re out of term time you don’t have your friends everyday and you don’t have that break." she said. “In the summer it’s all day every day. “Sometimes when her friends all make plans and she says she’s going; maybe we can’t leave the house and we can’t go places," adds Kirsty’s mum Yvonne. “Kirsty just goes to her room and she never says a word, but sometimes people stop asking because plans have been broken so often, so she just stays in her room.”

Kirsty’s situation isn’t unique. More than eight out of 10 teenagers with caring responsibilities feel lonely during the summer holidays, according to new research. A survey found 82% of 11-18 year-olds who look after loved ones feel isolated during the summer break. Almost a third (32%) feel lonely for most of the summer break and 35% do not look forward to the time off at all. Almost one in five (18%) of them spend more than 12 hours a day cooking, cleaning and looking after loved ones who need support, the research by Action for Children and the Carers Trust revealed. Lorna Ballard, National Director for Action for Children NI said an increase in awareness is needed to help support young carers. “We want people in communities to understand what young carers are and what the impact can be on their life. “It can affect their health, their mental health, their educational outcomes, their social outcomes; so it’s really important people understand what they do.”

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