24/11/2015 WHY YOUNG CARERS?

We are working with Young Carers currently studying at Morecambe Community High School. However, we realise that asking young carers to commit to weekly workshops could put a strain on other commitments, therefore do not expect all the young carers to attend all sessions.

We decided to focus our project around young carers as they are a demographic currently lacking strong support networks in the area. We noticed that the current forms of support provided in the area were largely focused around one-to-one support (lancashirechildrenstrust.org.uk, 2016). For this reason we are keen to provide a relaxed, fun environment where the young carers can work collaboratively and begin to build strong peer networks and support. We hope that the workshops we provide will become fun, social spaces providing a creative outlet for these inspiring young people.

In addition to this we are hoping, through our workshops, to address broader issues commonly faced by young carers. These include: a lack of opportunities, difficulties with education and little time to be a child (Hounsell, 2013). These issues arise as often young carers have limited personal time in which to pursue opportunities, progress academically and enjoy a lively social life (Hounsell, 2013). Young carers can be forced to grow up before their time and therefore miss out on everyday opportunities that many young people take for granted (Hounsell, 2013). One of these may be the chance to pursue an interest in the arts (as identified through discussions with the young carers at our innovation workshop). We plan to create workshops and events that address all three of these issues. Firstly, we aim to provide them with opportunities to experience creative activities beyond those taught in-school in order to broaden their understanding of art. Secondly, we hope to educate the young carers not only on the arts, but also by giving them opportunities to meet professionals in both the creative and academic sector. This will be accommodated through weekly sessions alongside an organised creative day to both Lancaster University and The Dukes. Finally, we want to address the fundamental issue of young carers being denied the time to be children. Our sessions will be fun and social and will allow them time to engage with other young people in a relaxed and creative environment. This will be furthered by both our half-term trip and our celebration evening where the children will get time to socialise away from their school environment and explore and celebrate their creativity.

Young carers are children and young people who are caring for someone with a long term illness or disability, mental health issues, or problems with drug or alcohol abuse. ‘Over the past decade, there has been growing – and welcome – recognition that care and support must be seen as both multi­agency and inter­generational.’ (Phelps, D. 2012. P.2) According to Carers Trust, young carers have historically been seen as a silent minority; not only facing the difficulties of caring for a family member but also in achieving their own educational potential and preparing for adult life. Carers Strategy addressed this issue in their 2010 report, where they acknowledged that young carers form an important strand in the wider community. (HM Government. 2010.) All too frequently, despite their desire to care, children are placed at an inappropriate level of care which can damage their own life chances and can place extra stress on an already vulnerable family.

Taking this into consideration, Carers Trust welcome new tools and approaches which help to maximise young carer’s contribution whilst protecting their dignity and rights as individual citizens. A young carer is ‘a son or daughter, brother or sister, grandson or granddaughter.’ (Goulder, N. 2015.) Caring is part of their family life, and many young carers feel that despite the challenges, their role is not only rewarding but can foster strong bonds between family members. As Dame Philippa Russell, Chair of the Standing Commission on Carers, raised awareness of the importance of ‘adopting a whole family focus which reflects and responds to the roles, rights and responsibilities of all the family members.’ (Russell, P.2012. P.2)

Official statistics estimate that there are over 175,000 young carers in the UK caring for a sick or disabled relative, with 13,000 of these young people caring for more than fifty hours a week (Family Action. 2012). However, a recent study undertaken by Professor Saul Becker, a leading expert in young carers, has shown that there are four times more young carers in the UK than are officially recognised by the 2001 census data. This survey, carried out by the BBC, found that one in twelve school children said they had caring responsibilities, which include shopping, washing and dressing family members.

Although there is an abundance of evidence suggesting a lack of support for young carers nationally, before undertaking our project we needed to research whether there were gaps in provision in regards to support for young carers in Morecambe and Lancaster, to ensure we could add value. Despite two leading charities, Barnardo’s and Child Action North West, working with young carers across the Lancashire region, a meeting in November, organised with Nicola Miller from Barnardo’s, revealed ‘recent budget cuts mean many young carers are now inaccessible for one to one support’. Currently two members of staff from Barnardo’s meet the young carers of Lancaster and Morecambe once a month and have regular contact to their closest relatives to keep up to date with the families. In November, we met with representatives from The Dukes, Morecambe Community High School and Barnardo’s to discuss what support could be provided for the young carers. The high school currently has twelve young carers aged between 11­ 16, and were looking to develop a programme to socialise and engage the carers in creative arts. Our project is therefore a collaboration between multiple organisations which all aim to enhance the young carers social time in after school workshops.

Our aim is to raise awareness of the pressures faced by young carers, through the medium of art, and showcase their talents to the wider community. Although young carers are consistently found to be more stressed and worried than their peers, more than half feel proud of handling the responsibility, and 42% said caring makes them happy (Carers Trust. 2012). To overcome the many challenges faced on a daily basis, and maintain their independence, young carers need support. ‘One way of doing that (though it is often overlooked or undervalued) is through the creative arts’ (Goulder, N. 2015).

Programmes focussed around young carers are designed to provide a break from their responsibility; a creative workshop can develop this necessity by also presenting a chance to socialise with other young carers, which is particularly important as 25% feel they don’t have enough people to talk to (Phelps, D. 2012. P.10). We are aiming to target three specific aspects of being a young carer: future opportunities, education and being a child. By the end of the project we hope the young carers feel a sense of achievement and have had a lot of fun making new friends and getting involved with new activities.

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