Carers Week 2016: Carers Milton Keynes

A young carer from Carers Milton Keynes paints a sculpture

For Carers Week 2016 Create is celebrating its amazing carer friendly partner organisations. Today we’d like to introduce you to Carers Milton Keynes, which we’ve worked with to run inspired:arts programmes for young carers since 2014.

A young carer is someone aged under 18 who regularly helps look after someone in their home who is physically or mentally ill, disabled or misuses drugs or alcohol. This could be a parent or a sibling. These responsibilities can impact on the young person’s wellbeing and many young carers struggle to juggle their education and caring role, causing pressure and stress.

The Young Carers Service in Milton Keynes supports approximately 515 young carers by offering advice and signposting, youth clubs, school holiday activities, targeted workshops, one to one emotional support, advocacy and representation and residential breaks.

inspired:arts is a multi-arts programme for young carers, which enables them to take a break from their caring responsibilities, build trusting relationships with their peers and develop creativity, social skills and confidence. During previous inspired:arts programmes in Milton Keynes, young carers have collaborated on original pieces of drama, short films, jewellery making and even designed a sculpture to accompany the iconic concrete cows that were in residence at intu Milton Keynes.

Research released by Carers Trust this week shows that whilst many carers felt supported, a significant number of children with caring responsibilities face barriers that result in poorer grades, reduced career prospects and increased mental health problems. Carers Trust statistics showed that 45% of carers in school struggle to get their homework done on time and a quarter of young carers are bullied because of their caring role.

Gail Scott-Spicer, CEO of Carers Trust, said: “The figures are quite shocking. These are children who are struggling to do their schoolwork during the day time and then heading home to look after their own mum, dad, brother or sister, in the evening.

“Young carers are vulnerable pupils. If they are not supported, the help they provide to their families can become too much and put their own life chances at risk. Schools, colleges and universities have a vital role to play in ensuring young carers are identified and supported. Understanding their caring responsibilities, making sure the family has the right support and offering some flexibility can be the difference between a young person dropping out or completing their course.”

Russell Hobby, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said: “Failing to support young carers is simply failing them. Schools can play a vital role in identifying and supporting young carers, and in helping these exceptional young people to succeed.”

Maria (not her real name), one of the young carers from Carers Milton Keynes who took part in inspired:arts, has cared for her father since she was three years old. She said: 

“I care for my dad because he has bipolar and severe depression. I feel like I don’t get to go out as much or do as much as other people my age. In school it can be hard to concentrate sometimes because I’m always thinking about what my dad is doing. It can feel like you’re picked out of the crowd when other people know about your life at home. 

“I enjoyed working with professional artists during Create’s project. They have taught me how to use a video camera and how to take different shots. I’ve also learnt new painting techniques, how to create pieces of jewellery and how to build a sculpture. 

“Getting to work as a team was the best thing about the project because you’re not just one person; you get to hear everybody else’s point of view. I’ve made quite a few friends through the project with Create. It’s been great to see them again at each workshop. 

“I think projects like inspired:arts are important for young carers because they take us away from that role and let us be children for a little while. The general public know that young carers exist but I don’t think they understand what we have to do. They don’t take us as seriously as adult carers.”

For more information on Carers Milton Keynes head to their website

CR Event INTU 11
Young carers from Carers Milton Keynes at the unveiling of their sculpture