Britain’s Youngest Carers Review

by Antonia

British Youngest Carers was on channel 4 and i was excited to know so many people were going to watch it. Twitter was definitely buzzing once the show started. Oritse was a young carer at 12 years old for his mother who has Multiple Sclerosis and was the founder and member of pop sensation JLS. His goal was to highlight  young carers who cares for a family member.

” I formed the band JLS in 2006 and we became famous through the X- Factor. But what few people knew is that I needed success to pay the care of my mother. I lived at home with my brother and sister – as the oldest caring became my responsibility. For me to go from having a household where my mother used to cook for me to being the one who had to cook everyday, make sure my whole family was alright. At first i found it quite hard, i wasn’t  used to doing that and i became very tired because i was cooking, cleaning, running around trying to make money, doing everything all at once and trying to stay in school [and] follow my music dream”. Oritse

Josh who is 13 years old cares for his dad who has a brain tumor from the age of 19 and has had several strokes and recurring seizures. After school he is immediately ready to attend to his caring duties, he takes over from his mum who is the main carer ; Josh lives with his mum, dad and sister.  Josh said he was fortunate to have the support of his mother and sister to be able to cope with school, homework, a Cadet and still be able to care for his dad. Professor Saul Becker from Blackpool mentioned the biggest increase in young carers in the UK  in the last 2 censuses was in the 5-7 years old category. Oritse said when he last checked it was 200,000 young carers in the UK but to his dismay Professor Saul said the amount was now 700,000. He went on to say the only way young cares will decrease is by supporting parents who are ill or disabled so they will not have to rely on the child/children to care for them. Also politically the government will need more resources.

He also mentioned young carers find it hard to tell people about being a carer as they do not know what their reactions may be. In some unfortunate incidents some are ridiculed, bullied and even beaten. Towards the end of the documentary it was lovely to see that some young carers had the support of their friends from school. Oritse shared his experience of getting into scuffles because people would make fun out of his mum. Financially things were difficult as his mum could no longer work which had his family with little to eat at times and with no electricity, fortunately his lovely neighbours helped out. They would see him going to the shops regularly with his backpack. This is not normally the case for every young carer as not all neighbours are nice enough or concerned to help out and on the other hand if approached it’s most likely a young carer may not want to disclose what is going on at home.

The issue of inappropriate caring tasks were raised as Prof. Saul said some young carers are ok with doing the cooking, cleaning and maybe personal care whereas some may find them difficult to comprehend. Oritse said he felt the personal care difficult like seeing his mother naked while taking her out the bath or cleaning her up after using the toilet. Intimate personal care; seeing a parent naked is the most difficult task for young carers.

Oritse went to visit Carers Lewisham (check out my fundraising event for them) where he spoke to a young carers group, some of the young carers talked about how their caring roles effected them and how coming to Carers Lewisham helped them. One young carer  mentioned she cared for her sister with Asperger Syndrome an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and her mum who has Chronic Sciatia. Another young carer explained how she cares for her mum with arthritis since the age of 10 and broke into tears.

“I’ve seen films where celebrities get involved and really think they can make a difference. But this problem is too deep and complex and the very best i can do is encourage young people to speak up and speak out. One thing they really need to shout about is their education”. – Oritse

Sisters Clare (16) and Erin (14) care for their father who has Vascular Dementia and is partially paralyzed, they care for him 9 hours a day, that’s 63 hours a week. Their dad said he feels angry and frustrated that he can’t do what he used to do anymore and has to rely on his daughters. They also help their mum who struggles with everyday tasks from shortness of breath and not being able to walk far. Clare is doing a A- Levels and Erin is doing her GCSE’s – having the time to do their homework/study can be difficult. Sometimes the only time is early hours of the morning like 1am or 2am in the morning. But is has became a routine for them for so long they are used to it now. Like many carers Clare and Erin are responsible for administring over 20 different medications everyday. Professor Saul pointed out the risk of young carers getting the medications wrong by doubling the doses by mistake, wrong timing or even forgetting. This could lead to serious complications or death, the pressure on carers on a daily basis are huge!!

“Being a carer is probably the hardest thing i have ever done in my entire life and i think it’s going be the hardest thing i’ll ever do. It’s the emotional and physical strain of doing it”

Oritse spoke of a 14 year old young carer from Scotland who did not want to be filmed, a lot of carers are not comfortable about talking about caring especially to protect their loved and the fear of being looked at differently. A lot of carers do not feel confident, uncertainty of the future, happy, loved and can be very self conscious. When out with their loved ones and people stare continuously this can became extremely hurtful and frustrating.

 “Most of the young carers that i’ve ever met like you say “I love doing it”, “I do it out of love”. But for some that gets so much responsibility; 30, 40, 50 hours a week of caring starts to have quite a negative knock of effect on other bits of their lives. When you look at the statistics around young carers they tend- start to fall behind in school, much likely to get fewer GCSE’s, effects the job prospects later on after they leave school. Effects some of their friendships, even their health tends to be worse than somebody who isn’t a carer….. Really important this, that they feel pride in it but we always say to young carers do stand up and ask for some support because you really do deserve it ” – Lily Caprani from Children’s Society

Ty-reese is the youngest carer featured in the documentary cares for his mum who has kidney issues, arthritis and has a pacemaker. Ty-Reese started caring at the age of 4 1/2 years old!! He is mostly responsible for most of the housework and giving his mum her medications. With so much responsibility Ty-reese still offers his mum with kisses and hugs and goes and does the next task willingly. However his mum did mention he does get frustrated at times when he wants to do something else but can’t because of his caring duties.

The worrying factor of Ty-reese’s situation is that now he is receiving support from (Carers Lewisham) and his mum now has help from social services he may be taken into care if things get worse with her health. Josh says it’s been a long waiting game as he was told a year ago his dad will pass away. I can’t imagine the pain Josh and his family feel on a daily basis knowing he only has a short time to live.  Clare and Erin don’t really want think about life after college/ university and starting their careers as their dad has decided he will be going to a care home. Most young people are quite excited about their future plans but as a young carer it’s not the same as they have to put their loved ones into consideration and do not like the idea of putting their loved ones into a care home.

Young carers have the burden of uncertainty everyday and can’t fully control what might happen to them or their loved ones, which is devastating. But as other young carers have mentioned being surrounded by like minded people will help you, please call or email your local carers centre. I really hope this documentary has opened the eyes of the nation and can see what could be happening to a child a couple of doors away from them. But most importantly the Government, it’s only so much charities can do to help young carers without the cooperation of the Government. Read the statement about the changes to the young carers legislation. This was a really good documentary, well done to Oritse and everyone that were involved. Hopefully if there is another documentary on young carers or young adult carers that it comes on a bit earlier than 11 pm on a school night. Thankfully you can catch up with the doc’ online, please watch this documentary and let me know what your thoughts are.

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Snapshots taken from 4oD on demand.