Young carer volunteers to support other people like her Despite being caring for both her mum and dad, Lucy O’Brien, a 20 year old young adult carer from Bromsgrove, Worcestershire, volunteers at the Worcestershire Young Carers clubs for young carers aged seven – 17. Lucy, who has a passion for arts and crafts, lives on her own in Bromsgrove but part of her normal routine involves visiting her parents to help them deal with everyday life. She cares for her mum and dad who both have complex mental health needs and physical disabilities. Her mum has also been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, SADS, type 2 Diabetes, spongelosis of the neck, corrosion of discs in the spine, fibromyalgia, bulging discs in her spine, severe arthritis and is in remission for skin cancer. Lucy said: “I have been caring for my parents for as long as I can remember and have been receiving support from Worcestershire Young Carers for almost five years. “Until I was referred by my GP I was unaware that I was a young carer; I thought caring for parents was something that everybody did. I certainly didn’t know what a young carer was or even that they existed.” A typical day for Lucy starts with catching two buses to make the hour-round trip to get to her parents’ house in Birmingham. She said: “I offer one to one support to my parents around their mental health, which includes talking and being a listening ear, helping them to understand the situations they are facing and also telling them what we need to be doing to sort it out. Keeping my parents calm and de-stressed is a big part of my caring role. With regards to my mum’s diabetes, I help monitor her blood sugar levels and help her to control these when they are either high or low. I encourage and support her with her medication and keep on top of the general household chores, as well as doing the shopping. As well as physically going over to my parents’ house I also provide them with emotional support on the phone, which can be at any time of day or night. I have been woken at 3am before to provide support over the phone.” Despite caring for her parents, Lucy decided to become a volunteer for Worcestershire Young Carers, a service delivered by West Mercia charity YSS. The service currently provides support to more than 450 young carers across the county. She said: “Worcestershire Young Carers has made a massive difference to my quality of life. I decided I wanted to give something back as a thank you for the life changing support I’ve received over the years. I knew I could help other people in the same – or worse – situations as me because I have experienced it myself. It makes me feel better to know that I am helping others.” Lucy’s volunteering involves running arts and crafts activities, as well as preparing snacks and drinks for the younger children to enjoy: “Because my skills are based around arts and crafts this is where I spend my time. Each week I look to plan an arts and crafts activity based on conversations I have had with the young people. Whilst I’m doing the activities with the young people, they often open up and talk to me about their situation, how their day has been and if they have any concerns. I am then able to support them as best I can or pass this on to a YSS keyworker if needed.” Volunteering at Worcestershire Young Carers has given Lucy a wide range of skills, including a big boost in confidence. She added: “Volunteering has helped me to open up and talk to others, and to be proud of myself for the work that I do. In the future I hope to be able to work with young people to help them develop their confidence and self-care, so volunteering gives me great experience. “Volunteering at Worcestershire Young Carers is the best thing I could have chosen to do; it’s something that has changed my life and I would definitely recommend it to other people.” Lucy is just one of many volunteers who selflessly give their time to provide support to more than 2,000 people every year, across a wide range of YSS’ services, from Appropriate Adult to Worcestershire Young Carers. To find out more about becoming a volunteer please click here, or speak to YSS volunteer coordinator Carole Blake by calling 07967 092628.