Young Carers in Lockdown

Young Carers in Lockdown

Changed times for everyone. Self-isolation. Shielding. Social distancing. What now is normal? For young carers in Oxfordshire pre-COVID-19, normal is the responsibility and stress of caring seven days a week, many caring over 20 hours a week, the anxiety they feel about the person they care for - will they be OK in the morning? - feeling left out, isolated unable to meet friends, ironing comes first or bathing their brother, looking out for their Mum, weighing up whether to go to school or make sure Dad is safe. Ask a young carer about their life and they'll probably say they get tired, they're doing good, they're learning to do good things. What else should we expect? Caring for a family member is unconditional, you'd do the same if you had to wouldn't you? The difference here is they're children; they don't get to do what other children do; they don't get the same parental attention, that goes on the sibling or parent with the health condition. They don't get time for themselves which impacts on their development and mental well being. Two thirds of the young carers the Oxfordshire charity Be Free Young Carers supports have identifiable mental health issues linked directly to caring: stress, anxiety, isolation, depression. In Oxfordshire, it is estimated there are 12,000 young carers (BBC 2018), on average two in every classroom, most living under the radar of any specialist support. Begin to imagine then what it must be like for a young carer during these changed times. No school, no school lunches, no socialising, no respite, trapped at home with the person(s) they care for, with the elder brother with high functioning autism, with the parent with an addiction or disability. And of course there will be children who are now, for the first time, caring for those suffering from COVID-19, no PPE for them, they just do it. Especially at times like these we rightly look out for the vulnerable in society. Young carers have a mental vulnerability they carry each day heightened by the danger of the virus. Recent estimates of vulnerable children continuing with school during the lockdown show only 10% able to attend are doing so. During lockdown Be Free Young Carers has been in regular contact with families making sure they are receiving the support they need, collaborating with other charities to distribute food to those families 'at risk', shielding and unable to food shop and has been providing volunteer based telephone befriending to young carers. In the coming weeks we will make a range of online content available to young carers; it's very important that these vulnerable young people have the opportunity to express their concerns, find out how others in similar situations are coping and, yes, perhaps make good friends. We know from feedback received from families that lockdown is proving very mentally challenging for many young carers. Once we are through this isolation, once normal returns in some form, young carers will need support and help to recover. Schools, which normally play such a vital role not only in identifying these young people, referring to Be Free Young Carers but also in providing effective in-school support will need to give time to young carers to express their feelings, time to get the emotions back to normal. Outside school young carers will need the specialist support Be Free Young Carers offers, talking with other young carers, having fun, being a child.

Be Free Young Carers l Harwell Innovation Centre, Curie Avenue, Didcot, OX11 0QG l 01235 838 554 Registered Charity 1042708, Company Registration 2989722

Posted: Wed, 15 Jul 2020 18:32 by Joanne Myers

Tags: Coronavirus