£2,500 to Care for Young Carers in West Berkshire

Friends of Young Carers logoFriends of Young Carers was established as a charity in 2013 with the aim of supporting West Berkshire Young Carers and Sibling Carers.  There are currently 60 children identified as having a caring role in the home that the charity are aware of although it is estimated that there are around 400+ children in West Berkshire who are coping with looking after a parent or a sibling and who are unaware of the support available to them.

The long term aim is to reach and support all of these children. Their caring role can involve emotional and physical support and it is understood that by helping these young people, the family also benefits indirectly. Brothers and sisters as well as parents are all affected when a member of their family needs care.

“I look after my Mum and help her cope, but sometimes, I feel lonely, different, sad, embarrassed and resentful”

Social Services and Berkshire Carers Service, working with schools, GPs and social services, have put an infrastructure in place to firstly identify these young carers and secondly to ensure they get all the bare essential help they need. However, not funded are the simple enjoyable experiences that the vast majority of children take for granted, enabling them to behave like children and be treated like children rather than having to deal with the adult pressures they invariably live with.

Anna Downie (Secretary) and Alison Mcintyre (Chair of Trustees) with mascot Sidney the Owl Alison Mcintyre, Chair of Trustees of Friends of Young Carers, explained: ‘In the first 6 months we managed to raise a total of £7,000 to start us off and register as a Charity with the Charities Commission. We have already funded a number of activities such as drama courses, football courses, transport costs to group sessions and a Spa experience for 8 young Carers which incorporated their 1:1 sessions with a Youth worker.  We have received donations from a number of sources including the West Berkshire Partnership as well as monies raised from our own events which included a quiz night, wine tasting, Easter cake sale, Christmas fair and the sale of our knitted mascot owls’.

‘With our award of £1,500 from the Trust we are thrilled that we will be able to fund a group of 30 Young Carers aged 11-16 to attend the Young Carers Festival 2014. The festival costs £82 per child to attend – an amount that most of our families cannot afford. The children enjoy a weekend away from their caring roles in the home, a chance to share experiences and interact with other Young Carers from around the country and take part in fun activities and entertainment laid on just for them.’

The festival has been held at Fairthorne Manor, Southampton each year since its inception in 2000 and has a proven track record. The weekend, held at the end of June, is run by the Princess Royal Trust for Carers and The Children’s Society, with around 1500 Young Carers taking part. There are workshops, discussion groups as well as discos and games - all of which encourage interaction between the children as well as an opportunity to share experiences away from their caring roles at home. It is a hugely successful event attracting a lot of media attention.

‘We work closely with the Young Carers Project at the Castlegate in Donnington, Newbury and they feel that enabling these children to attend has a significant positive impact on their self-esteem and produces a great sense of unity within the West Berkshire Young Carers Project.’

“I never knew there were so many other young carers, just like me”

A hoodie with the Young Carers' owl motif for every Young Carer in West BerkshireA further £1000 was also awarded by Greenham Trust to fund the purchase of a special hoodie for each Young Carer. New Young Carers who become registered can immediately receive one to wear at group activities and trips out. This helps them feel part of a group, gives them a sense of unity and helps them to appreciate that there are other Young Carers just like them. Alison reinforced ’It is very important, within this group of children, that they do not feel isolated and alone in their responsibilities. The Sapphire Blue Hoodies proved the most popular and come complete with our owl logo printed in lime and grey on the front.  The hoodies attract a lot of attention and they are also a wonderful way to promote the charity.’

‘Our hope for the future is to fund even more Young Carers from West Berkshire attending the festival in 2015 and to be able to fund future activities that the carers themselves express an interest in.’ 

Friends of Young Carers are also proud to be funding the filming and editing of a very special piece of drama/documentary, ‘My Untidy Life’,  which was run by the Watermill Theatre for the Young Carers . Anyone who wants to have an understanding of the life of a child who is a Young Carer should watch it .

Young Carers wearing their hoodiesIf you would like to find out more about Friends of Young Carers you can visit their website on http://foyc-webs.org.uk/