As part of Carers Week 2021, we’re spotlighting the important, often overlooked work that young carers do.
The vital care that young carers provide for vulnerable loved ones comes at a cost to their education, social development and mental health. Research suggests 27% of young carers aged 11-15 miss school or experience educational difficulties; 68% are bullied and feel isolated at school. 23% feel their caring role has, at least once, stopped them from making friends. According to the report published by Carers Trust in July 2020, 40% of young carers say their mental health is worse since Coronavirus; 69% feel less connected to others. Some now care for as much as 90 hours a week.
At Create, we know the creative arts can have an invaluable impact. Our projects enable young carers to take a much-needed break from their caring responsibilities. The projects also give them a chance to spend time with other young carers, reducing feelings of isolation and enhancing wellbeing, while empowering them to develop new skills, build self-esteem, increase confidence and enjoy themselves.
This Carers Week, meet Frank (12), Matthew (14) and Latisha (15) – three young carers who took part in different Create projects, both online and in-venue.
Meet Frank (12)
“I care for my mum. She has osteoporosis and can break her bones easily, and my dad had to leave work to become her carer. When my dad’s out it’s my responsibility to look after my mum.
“I think I’m more grown-up than other children because I’ve learnt more life skills. I know how to cook. If my dad’s out and I’m hungry I can make jacket potato cheese and beans or something. I’ve learnt it all in the space of a year.
“Through the workshops, I’ve realised that music is really fun. It’s tricky at the start but when you get the hang of it, it’s nice.
“Create helps young carers because these opportunities to be creative would normally cost a lot of money. If there’s not much money and you only have money to pay the rent or the bills and get food for the week then you can’t do it. Create gives young carers the opportunity to do this and it’s really special. It makes young carers happy.”
Meet Matthew (14)
“One of my brothers has ADHD and one of them has autism. My mum has Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension, which means she has too much spinal fluid, which basically squeezes her brain.
“It was very fun to do something creative. It’s a nice change because, obviously, I don’t do many creative things at home. I don’t have the equipment or usually the time. It’s definitely also very educational.
“I think it’s important to express yourself, especially as a young carer. There are a lot of built-up emotions, especially if your parent, for example, is going through something difficult and you don’t want to burden them with your problems. Doing stuff like this is a nice release.”
Meet LATISHA (15)
“I care for my mum who damaged her spine in a road accident. Since then, she has been in constant pain and requires a lot of help around the house, including cooking, washing and tidying up.
“At home I don’t usually have the chance to be creative. I do my chores like cooking and that’s all there is time for.
“Being able to get out is the hardest thing. Coming on projects like these, the other young carers know what it’s like. When my other friends ask me to come out, often I say ‘No because I have to look after my mum.’ They think I’m always looking after to her and eventually they just stop asking. They don’t really understand.
“That’s why it has meant so much to me to hang out with the other young carers. With Create, I’ve been able to do animation, song-writing, photography, sculpture, dancing, so many things that I would never have done if I wasn’t a young carer and didn’t have this support.
“I don’t think the general public are aware of everything we have to do. I don’t think they understand how much time we spend caring, how much we miss out on and the toll it takes on us.
“I think projects like these are really important because when you’re a carer, you can lose a sense of yourself. You spend all your time looking after someone else. Projects like these help you understand more about yourself.”
All of the children featured in the photographs in this post are young carers who have taken part in Create workshops, but are not Frank, Matthew or Latisha.