Teenager Paige Brown is just one of the young carers whose role has been highlighted recently during Young Carers Awareness Day.
The 15-year-old from Clitheroe cares for her 50-year-old mum Angela, who can’t work and suffers from mental illness as well as panic attacks.
“Every day I make sure she is ok before I go to school,” said Paige. “Some days I have to make tea and do the washing.”
Paige, who is a pupil at St Augustine’s RC High School, Billington, also used to look after her brother who was born with a rare condition.
“It was very difficult looking after my mum and my brother at the same time,” Paige added.
New data has been released to mark the annual national awareness day, organised by Carers Trust, the UK’s largest charity for unpaid carers.
It shows that young carers across the UK are in danger of not getting the most out of their education or fulfilling their life ambition because they are caring for a family member. More than half, 53%, of the young adult carers surveyed were having problems coping with school work and nearly 60% say they are struggling to meet deadlines. A third said they have to skip school most weeks.
Young people are suffering a range of set-backs in pursuing their goals, with 82% of young adult carers reporting stress and 73% saying they have to take precious time off school and learning specifically to care for a family member.
Paige, who has been looking after her mum for around the past eight years, and has no relatives who live nearby to call on, added: “It just feels like normal now, something I’ve always done.
“I suppose it has made me grow up quicker.”
There are an estimated 700,000 children and young people across the UK, some as young as five-years-old, who are caring for family members. Most care for a parent or other close family member, day in, day out, and shockingly, at least 13,000 young carers are providing care for over 50 hours a week on top of their studies.
The data comes from a survey carried out by Carers Trust via Survey Monkey in December. It features responses and comments from 302 young adult carers, aged 16 to 24. They were asked about their dreams and ambitions while growing up as a young carer. A young carer is someone up to the age of 18, while a young adult carer can be between the ages of 16-24.
Like other young carers, Paige finds it difficult to lead the same care free life as her friends.
Paige explained: “Some times if my friends are going out, if I have to look after my mum, I cannot go.
“When I go to school I’m always worried and want to make sure that my mum is ok. Sometimes she rings in to the teachers and I have to go home. I don’t like leaving her if she is not well.”
For Paige and young carers like her the support she receives from organisations like Carers Link Lancashire is invaluable. She has regular one-to-one sessions to talk about any issues that she has. She also takes advantage of organised trips away with other young carers.
“The trips give me respite and I get to see other people,” said Paige.
The theme of this year’s Awareness Day was When I Grow Up, and there’s an added focus on helping young carers to achieve a job or career that they want to do.
In association with Barnardo’s, Burnley, Pendle and Rossendale CVS, Lancashire County Council, Carers Link Lancashire have contributed to a short educational film which will be shown in schools throughout Lancashire. The film aims to illustrate the difficulties some youngsters face as they juggle caring responsibilities and school work, often leaving little time for them to think about what they want to do or be when they grow up.
Paige, who is in Year 11 at St Augustine’s hopes to work with horses when she leaves school and to gain a place at Myerscough College.
Asked what advice she would give to other young carers, Paige said: “I would just tell them to keep going. It does get better and easier.”
Carers Link Lancashire supports unpaid carers who provide help with practical household tasks, personal care and emotional support to a family member or friend who could not manage otherwise.
A total of 8,000 carers in East Lancashire are registered with Carers Link Lancashire – their youngest carer is aged just six, and the oldest is 101.