A service which has worked with more than 2,000 young carers in Knowsley is marking its 20th anniversary.
Knowsley Young Carers service is holding a celebration event on Wednesday, May 29, at the River Alt Resource Centre in Huyton from 1-5pm, with all present and past young carers invited.
With an estimated 800 young people in the borough acting as carers for parents or relatives, the Young Carers service aim to minimise the impact on their lives and make sure they don’t miss out on a childhood.
Peter Comer, Manager of Knowsley Young Carers Service, said: “We’re working with children as young as 7, some of whom are spending hours a day, every day, looking after parents and carrying out household chores like cleaning, cooking and shopping. In many cases this has a huge impact on their lives – sometimes they are missing school and struggling to concentrate when they do attend, and they miss out on the normal everyday things other children take for granted – playing out with friends or going on family outings.”
Nationally, there are more than 70,000 young carers, around 800 of them living in Knowsley.
Knowsley Young Carers Service look at ways to minimise the impact of the caring responsibility on children, ideally finding ways to stop it altogether.
“Any child in Knowsley who is acting as a carer is automatically classified as a “child in need”, therefore they will get help and advice with health and education issues, and their situation will be assessed to see what additional support can be provided to the adult they care for to reduce the burden on the child.”
Young Carers using the service have a space of their own within the River Alt Resource Centre, in Huyton, where they can socialise with other young people who understand what they are going through.
“Often young people think they are the only ones in that situation,” says Peter. “They often find it a relief to meet other people their age who understand what it means to be a carer. It’s great for them as they form friendships and always have somebody to turn to.”
And the service does also place an emphasis on fun, ensuring young people don’t miss out on their childhood because of the responsibilities they have at home.
Young carers are invited to art workshops, days out, sports sessions, and workshops on topics such as healthy cookery. Once a year, the service organises a family trip to Chester Zoo when parents are invited along too. “The young carers particularly look forward to this one,” says Peter. “For some of them it might be the only family outing they get to go on with their family that year, so it really means a lot to them and helps to create a happy memory for all the family.”
At the celebration event next week, the service will be inviting back former young carers to talk about the impact it had on their lives and how things have worked out for them now.
“Their stories are really inspirational,” says Peter. “We’ve got former young carers who’ve been through really tough times caring for a parent, sometimes with a massively detrimental effect on their own lives – they’ve missed a lot of school or even suffered with depression. But with support and help they’ve come through it all and gone on to get really good jobs, study at university or have families of their own.”
The Young Carers Service is funded from a number of sources including Knowsley Council and charity group Friends of Young Carers.
Cllr Graham Wright, Cabinet Member for Knowsley Council, said: “While the Knowsley Young Carers service provides lots of fun activities for young people there is also a really serious side to the work they do. Caring duties can place an enormous strain on a young person, and many of them don’t complain or ask for help because, even at a very young age, they feel a responsibility to look after their mum or dad when they’re sick.
“This can sometimes be at the expense of their own health and education, and certainly they don’t enjoy the kind of carefree childhood that you would wish for a child.
“Knowsley Young Carers service do some terrific work making sure that there is support for both the young carer and the person they care for, to minimise the amount of caring the young person has to do, and make sure they don’t miss out on a childhood – because they only get one chance at that.”
The celebration event takes place on Wednesday, May 29, at the River Alt Resource Centre, Woolfall Heath Avenue, Huyton from 1-5pm. Presentations will take place to young carers by last year’s Mayor of Knowsley, Cllr Norman Hogg, who raised money for Knowsley Young Carers as one of his chosen charities. There will also be performances of music and singing by the young people and a disco and party to follow.
For more information about the Knowsley Young Carers Service, contact them on 443 5785.