A 2010 BBC report estimated there to be 700,000 young carers in the UK today providing care and support to family members and friends.

In Worcestershire there are around 420 officially identified young carers, although this is likely to be the tip of the iceberg as many who provide unpaid care for someone who is physically or mentally ill or disabled are not known to local services. The 2011 census showed that 3,490 young people in Worcestershire recognised themselves as having a caring role.

Many of these young people miss out on vital services and support to which they are entitled. Thursday 25 January is National Young Carers Awareness Day and we will be highlighting the work young carers do, and helping them, along with their families, access appropriate support. 

In Worcestershire, West Mercia based independent charity YSS with its head office in Blackpole, Worcester, has been delivering Worcestershire Young Carers since 2003.

The initiative currently supports more than 400 young carers who help look after a parent, guardian or sibling in their own home who has an illness or disability. This includes people who have issues with drugs and alcohol or experience mental ill health.

The caring roles can differ greatly from young person to young person – from washing, bathing, feeding and administering medication to emotional support and helping with parenting of younger siblings.

Young carers are also far less likely to go on to higher and further education, as well being more likely to suffer bullying and their own mental health problems. Over half of our young carers come from single parent families. When combined with the fact that the majority are also caring for a parent, means that many of our young carers are the only person caring in a household. This is a huge amount of responsibility for a young person also trying to meet their own needs.

YSS delivers face to face sessions and mentoring support to young carers aged between seven and 25. These sessions can be based around various issues - school, bullying and self-esteem - with the aim of helping the young person maintain their well-being while having a caring role.

Worcestershire Young Carers also runs monthly clubs for two age groups - seven to 12 and 13 to 25 in Worcester and in Redditch. As well as these clubs, there is a full schedule of activities throughout the year including  camping, rock climbing, visiting the seaside, bowling, swimming, fishing and ice skating.

Lorraine Preece, Chief Executive at YSS, said “The clubs and activities are vitally important in giving young carers the chance to take a break from their caring responsibilities, to socialise with their peers and have some fun.  For many, this is the only opportunity they will have to do this.

“This Young Carers Awareness Day I would encourage everyone to consider making a donation to support young carers in Worcestershire. Just £5 could help to pay for a young carer’s cinema ticket, whilst £10 will help to transport a young carer to a club.”

To make a donation or find out more please click here.