Young carers in Somerset have said they no longer have the support they need.
Somerset County Council has made changes to the service, keeping the same level of funding and promising to expand and improve it. But families have told ITV News the staff they trusted have gone and hardly any events have been organised to give young carers respite during the summer holiday.
16 year-old Holly Baker, from Bridgwater, helps her parents look after her older brother Owen, who has autism, and younger brother Toby, who has epilepsy and needs constant supervision.
Over the years she’s relied on Somerset’s young carers service for support - but she’s unhappy about how it’s changed. She said:
Holly’s father, Glen Baker, said:
The changes to the service came about after sweeping cuts announced in the autumn of 2018. It quickly paused that decision, promising to come up with a new way of supporting young carers.
In the Spring of 2019, the council announced it would maintain the level of funding to the service but would get community groups and charities to run it in order to allow them to tap into extra funding.
It also aimed to identify more of the estimated 1,750 young carers in Somerset, many of whom receive no support.
However, the council staff young carers had existing, strong relationships and trust with have gone and during the long summer holiday, when time away from their responsibilities at home is much-needed, very few activities have been organised for them.
Nicky Griffin, a former young carers project worker who left Somerset County Council in the autumn of 2018, is not surprised families are upset. She said:
Bassie Wakefield lives in Frome and helps his sister care for his mother. He says he’s stopped attending his local group because the staff he knew and trusted have left. He said:
Somerset County Council has promised that the service will be a better one for families and it is confident that it will be able to reach more young carers, many of whom aren’t currently being supported.
The leader of the council, David Fothergill, has also promised to listen to the young carers who have voiced concerns. He said:
Hundreds of young people provide care for parents and siblings and they are some of the most vulnerable people in the county.
Somerset County Council has, however, pledged to make sure they have the help they need and believes the service will improve, particularly from September when its contract with the YMCA, who will run it, properly starts.
The true test will be down the line - seeing whether it does end up reaching more of those 1,750 young carers across Somerset, many of whom are completely under the radar.