Shining the spotlight on Sunderland’s young carers …

Sunderland Carers Centre carer services manager Lisa Watson.
Sunderland Carers Centre carer services manager Lisa Watson.
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The efforts of a committed army of bright young carers dedicating their lives to helping loved ones will be celebrated today.

Young Carers Awareness Day shines a spotlight on children and young people caring for a family member with a long-term condition or disability and highlight the help that is available to support them.

Sunderland Carers Centre will host a day of activities at its Southwick base, including an all-day drop-in session where people can access immediate advice and support, hear about the help that they can access in the city and also learn about the amazing youngsters who are committed to helping others.

Carer services manager Lisa Watson and her team will talk to visitors about the centre, its services, users and support network.

And assistance will be provided by the Young Carers Ambassadors – caring recruits piloting a programme to help young carers in schools.

“We have an amazing army of young carers right across Sunderland and beyond,” she said.

“Whether it’s helping a loved one with a disability, coping with addiction in the family, caring for someone with dementia or simply feeling the impact of disability within the household, Sunderland has a vast amount of young people providing care.”

Young carers activity lead Sue Callaghan said: “What we want to do is celebrate their effort, applaud their achievements and also extend a supportive hand to those who have yet to access any sort of support – the most important message we can deliver is that no matter how bad you think things are, no matter how alone you feel and no matter what your set of circumstances are, we are here to help!”

The fifth official Young Carers Awareness Day will take place today and this year is focusing on mental health, with social media users encouraged to promote the #CareforMeToo hashtag as well as the #OneinFive campaign, highlighting the statistic that one in five children and young people in the UK is a carer.

The aim of the national event is to continue identifying young carers and raise awareness of the vital role that they play in supporting their sick and disabled family members.

To mark the day, a video of young carers’ stories has been produced and users of the Carers Centre have developed the second edition of the ‘Rainbows and Rollercoasters’ booklet – a publication written, designed and produced by young carers for young carers.

Carers Centre deputy chief executive Amanda Brown said: “Rainbows and Rollercoasters is a fantastic book and one that young people can really relate to because it’s written by their peers – it isn’t polished or professional, it’s real and a perfect entryway into our services.

“We seize the opportunity provided by platforms like Young Carers Awareness Day because not enough is done to tell people about the thousands of young people who, without fanfare, are dealing with issues that most adults would struggle with.

“Sunderland is a city with remarkable young people and it is only right that they have their day.”

Sunderland Carers Centre helps youngsters and their families cope with additional pressures that looking after a loved one can bring. Whether it’s one-to-one support or the chance to enjoy fun activities and days out via the Young Carers Group, the centre is there to help.

National research from the Carers Trust also shows that being a young carer can affect a child’s school attendance, educational achievement, mental and physical health and future life chances, something the Carers Centre has worked hard to prevent.

Amanda added: “We recognise the affect that being a young carer can have on a child’s school attendance, this was why we signed up for the Young Carers Ambassadors pilot and, alongside partners Together for Children, launched the ‘Young Carers in School’ card.

“We also worked with Sunderland College to get young carers thinking about their aspirations for the future, with a huge number of them realising that they have the same opportunity to progress as all young people.”

To find out more about Sunderland Carers Centre, visit www.sunderlandcarers.co.uk, follow @SunderlandCarer on Twitter, @SunderlandCarersCentre on Facebook, call 0191 549 3768 or call in to the centre on Thompson Road.