Carers Week 2016: Kingston Young Carers Project

Participants from Kingston Young Carers Project enjoying Create’s art:space programme

For Carers Week 2016 Create is celebrating its amazing carer friendly partner organisations. Today we’d like to introduce you to Kingston Young Carers Project (KYCP), which we’ve worked with since 2012 on seven programmes.

KYCP, Kingston-upon-Thames’ only organisation providing support for young carers, offers a wealth of experience and expertise on issues that affect the lives of these young people the most. As part of Kingston Carers’ Network – a local charity providing independent information, advice, advocacy and support to over 2,370 adult and young carers – KYCP focuses on carers aged 5-18, providing not only personal support but working to ensure they have a say in the way health, social care and carers’ services are run in the borough. KYCP represents the views of the carers that they work closely with, promoting the needs of these young people to local decision-makers so that their voices are listened to and considered.

Kat Law, a Young Carers Support Worker at the charity, talked to us about the work that KYCP does:

We work specifically with 5-18 year olds with a caring responsibility for someone at home. This could be, for example, a mum in a wheelchair or a brother with autism. We are currently supporting more than 470 young carers in the borough.

“The services we provide for these young people include a weekly youth group, a monthly drop in for our younger carers, respite breaks during the holidays, one-to-one support, mentoring and much more. We work hard to meet the needs of all of our young people and working with organisations such as Create helps us to do this. Our young people love working with the different artists and the activities provide an invaluable opportunity for them to explore themselves outside their caring role.”

We’ve been fortunate enough to work alongside KYCP for the last four years, collaborating with the young people who use its support services in a variety of projects across our inspired:arts and art:space programmes. Since 2012, we’ve explored a whole host of art forms, with textiles, jewellery-making, photography, dance and visual art helping to bring Kingston’s young people together to build relationships, acquire new creative talents and provide respite from their often demanding caring responsibilities.

A notable highlight of our partnership with KYCP was its involvement in the first of our Curtain Raiser projects in collaboration with our Patron, Sir Matthew Bourne OBE. This gave young carers from KYCP the opportunity to work alongside other London-based carers to create an original dance piece under the guidance of dancers from Bourne’s New Adventures dance company, which they then performed on the stage at Sadler’s Wells. Many of our projects with KYCP, generously sponsored by British Land, have culminated in final performances and exhibitions presented within Kingston’s Eden Walk Shopping Centre, enabling the young carers to share their work with a wider audience. 

Elisabeth (not her real name) took part in our creative workshops back in 2014. Aged 15, she was caring for her brother who was diagnosed with severe learning difficulties, epilepsy, global development delay and a life limiting syndrome. Elisabeth was referred to KYCP by her brother’s social worker, which is how she got involved with Create. She talked to us about the workshops she was involved with and how they helped her build up confidence:

“I have done many projects with Create recently:  drama, jewellery and photography.  I really enjoyed them.  The artists and the team are always really welcoming and friendly.  I’m quite a shy person and I don’t feel too shy here, I just feel comfortable. The workshops are something I look forward to. 

“My favourite bit of the workshops was probably working on our songs – just trying to sing them. There’s a song about being accepted, the problems that can sort of stop you from being accepted, and trying to get over that. 

“I enjoyed the sharing. I think I feel more confident singing in front of people now.  I have actually been able to contribute to the music, instead of just having to be like ‘Ok, I will just go with it’, because I’m normally someone who doesn’t stand up for herself. Since I did the first workshop with Create, I have a lot more confidence.  I feel like this has increased every time; I have tried to do more at these workshops than I would have done at any other stage.”

The time-intensive, often solitary, nature of caring duties can leave young carers at risk of isolation. Within the State of Caring Survey 2015, 61% of respondents reported that they were worried about the impact their caring role would have on relationships with friends and family. This lack of social interaction and loneliness can lower confidence, heightening the chance of negative wellbeing. Create’s art:space and inspired;arts programmes endeavour to counter this by collaborating closely with carer services such as KYCP, enabling them to provide creative opportunities that further self-confidence and communication for young carers and those around them.

Head over to the KYCP website and enter the Young Carers’ Zone for more information for young carers, including advice and a blog documenting the great work that they do in offering support to Kingston’s young people.