This week is Carers Week, and we are eager to add our voice to help raise awareness of the amazing, often unheralded work done by young and adult carers across the UK. We are committed to empowering carers across the UK – both during the pandemic and beyond – with creative arts projects that reduce isolation, build skills and confidence, provide a break from caring and enhance wellbeing.
Before the pandemic, there were an estimated 9.1 million unpaid carers in the UK – and the coronavirus has added an extra 4.5 million people to this figure, all of whom are caring for older, disabled or seriously ill relatives or friends during the pandemic. Before this crisis, the economic value of carers’ contribution was an enormous £132 billion per year, and more than a third – 35% – of unpaid adult carers say they are often or always lonely. Can you imagine the effect that lockdown has had on all of these people?
Of these carers, an estimated 800,000 are classed as “young carers” under the age of 18, more than a third of whom report that they suffer from mental health problems. A recent study found that children and young people are likely to experience high rates of depression and anxiety during lockdown and long after it ends. Young carers are particularly vulnerable, and creativity can provide them with a vital lifeline: a chance to express themselves, build skills and enhance self-esteem, aiding wellbeing.
Our work with carers
In 2019/20 our professional artists delivered face-to-face creative projects with 410 young carers across the UK, providing them with a creative and social outlet away from their caring responsibilities. Create was recognised with the Children & Young People Now Young Carers Award in November 2019 for this vital work.
Our projects with adult carers, meanwhile, helped them to explore their creativity while taking a break from their caring responsibilities, building trusting relationships with other carers who understand their situation, and building confidence and new skills, such as music or collage.
We were working to extend our projects with carers in 2020 when the coronavirus lockdown forced us to postpone all of our workshops.
Just 14 days later, following rigorous planning, consultation and trial runs, we launched a new delivery method – Create Live! – through which we are now delivering our programmes virtually. We are in the process of rolling out photography, visual art, drama, music and dance projects with young and adult carers and other vulnerable children and adults across the UK, reducing their sense of isolation during the pandemic.
Our Chief Executive, Nicky Goulder, explained: “We were devastated when the pandemic forced us to postpone our workshops, and knew we had to adapt as quickly as possible. There was no alternative. We exist to bring people together to reduce isolation, develop creativity and enhance wellbeing. Thanks to the flexibility and dedication of our artists, staff, funders and partners, Create Live! came together incredibly quickly, and we are seeing impressive results. Being able to empower, upskill and bring together our participants to enjoy creative self-expression and meet new people has never been more important.”
Krista Cartlidge, Executive Director at MYTime Young Carers, which is a new partnership that has been established since lockdown happened, commented: “We loved working with Create to deliver an online photography project with our young carers in Dorset. It was a resounding success. The participants were encouraged to create incredible, thoughtful photographs, and it was fantastic to see them so proud of their work and listening to each other. It is absolutely crucial that young carers are given the opportunity to take a break and connect with one another at this time and the Create project was a brilliant way to do this.”
One of the parents reflected: “The creativity and ideas produced in ONLY three days, without specialist photography equipment and all far apart, was just AMAZING! I think all the children will feel now that they have had a very special collaboration with others. The photos were all so clever, interesting, beautiful. The photo where everyone reached out to another person was quite moving. It was a joy to see my daughter so enthusiastically running around finding objects and then showing us her work.”
Following the successful launch of Create Live!, we will be using this mechanism to deliver our programmes until it is safe once again to bring our participants together into the same physical space for workshops. In this way, we will continue to reach young and adult carers during the pandemic and beyond.