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Helping young carers reach their true potential

10 June 2013

A nationwide campaign is underway this week (10-16 June) to help improve the lives of carers and the people they care for. Carers Week events are taking place up and down the country, celebrating and recognising the work they do for family and friends.

Jaqui Martin

Jaqui Martin

Suffolk Family Carers is a funded charity which reaches out to more than 14,000 carers in the county. In this guest blog, Jacqui Martin speaks of the importance of support networks in schools, colleges and universities for young carers who may be overwhelmed by caring responsibilites. As she explains,with guidance from the relevant services they can be helped to realise their true potential.

Many young people grow up in families where they have to help out, but when the tasks that they have to undertake start to encroach on their education, physical development and time to develop friendships, this can be really negative and impact on their health and well-being.

Many continue to take on complex caring roles in their families and in many cases they are hidden from those who could help them and are fearful that if they ask for help the consequences will worse than just getting on with it. That is generally not the case – we have seen life changing support given to young people to enable them to be just that – young people.

We know that unless these young people are supported in a really positive and proactive way, their life chances can be limited as they continue to care after they leave school and have no aspirations for their own future. They can become isolated as well as they’re then unable to participate in clubs , extra activities and social events. This is unacceptable.

It’s essential that teachers in schools and their governors are aware that they will have young carers and young adult carers in their schools – some as young as four-years-old in some cases.


Each school, college and university should have a safe person for them to talk to and an awareness that with the right support these young people can really achieve. This safe person has to have a good knowledge of the type of support and information that’s available in their area to help and the information on independent organisations which have the expertise to help.

The young people don’t want to be seen as special but they do want to be acknowledged for the role they undertake – not only by the schools but also by the other services that touch their family. It’s only then that they’ll be able to really have aspirations, be able to dream and be able to start to plan for the future.

As one of the first organisations to acknowledge and work with young people in a caring situation we know that a little help goes a long way. Many of those we’ve worked with over the last 25 years have been able to take great strides to improve their situations and some have even returned to us to volunteer in later life.

Parents have also written to us to thank us for the sensitive and positive approach we have taken in looking at alternative support in reducing the role of caring of the young carers or young adult carer. We have to ensure that they have the opportunities to have a future so we need to rise to the challenge and have all services working together.

We wouldn’t have been able to extend our work to young adult carers had it not been for the support of the Big Lottery Fund. It has been a privilege to work with this enthusiastic, energetic and amazing individuals.

Jacqi Martin is Chief Executive, Suffolk Family Carers

What do you think about Jacqi’s blog and our young carers film? Have you been involved in a carers project funded by the Big Lottery Fund? Leave your comments below.

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