YOUNG Wearsiders who care for an ill relative or friend are being encouraged to look after themselves too.
Carers aged four to 25-year-old don’t always recognise the importance of their role, but the Carers Centre is urging them to come forward and seek support.
Based in Toward Road, Hendon, Sunderland Carers’ Centre has been providing support, advice and activities for young carers since 1995.
Sue Callaghan, a young carer development worker, from the centre, said: “Young carers across Wearside are becoming increasingly recognised for the extraordinary responsibilities they take on to look after family members with disabilities, with long-term physical or mental illnesses or substance misuse problems.
“The role of young carers is now always recognised in the annual Young Achiever Awards, and this year, 15-year-old Kim Lomax achieved the highest overall accolade in recognition of her caring role.”
Sue added: “Children or young people who take on a caring responsibility don’t always think about the role they have taken on, it may be something they have always done and is just part of their everyday routine.
“They may also share some caring responsibilities with other family members, making it hard for anyone to recognise they have taken on tasks adults would normally do. Young carers and families of someone with a mental illness or an addiction problem may also be reluctant to seek help for fear of family break up and the stigma attached to these conditions.”
To help young carers, the centre provides one-to-one support and a range of social and group activities such as weekly activity groups at Southwick Neighbourhood Youth Project.
Sue added: “These young people show amazing maturity to cope with their caring responsibilities on top of other demands like school and homework.
“We work with them to make sure the balance is right, that they are given adequate support at home so they can have a life outside of their caring role and that they have the same social opportunities as others their own age. Their aspirations shouldn’t be compromised just because they are caring for someone.”
* For more information about Sunderland Carers’ Centre work with young carers contact Sue Callaghan or Dave Willcock on 567 3232 or e-mail young firstname.lastname@example.org.