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Transcript – Programme 66: Not a Burden

The chal­lenges fac­ing young peo­ple in car­ing roles and ways to sup­port them

To lis­ten to this pro­gramme, please click here.

Friends don’t always under­stand, they don’t get out much and they’re faced with daunt­ing respon­si­bil­i­ties, but they wouldn’t change a thing about their fam­i­lies. So say the young peo­ple Paul Evans meets at a sup­port day for car­ers in south east Wales. 

There are 178,000 young car­ers in Eng­land and Wales doing unpaid work for par­ents too ill to per­form essen­tial house­hold tasks or even look after them­selves. Ker­ris Olsen-Jones, who works to sup­port these chil­dren and young peo­ple – some as young as five years old – says that they some­times ‘miss the oppor­tu­ni­ty to be chil­dren’. She and her col­leagues help the young peo­ple to socialise and make the most of the oppor­tu­ni­ties avail­able to them.

How­ev­er, many young car­ers do not see them­selves as car­ers, so may not get access to sup­port. Ethan Mason, who cares for his moth­er who has fibromyal­gia, describes how as an ado­les­cent he had to deal with a house fire alone, while fire safe­ty offi­cer Julie Good­field gives fire pre­ven­tion tips for peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties and their carers.

Issues cov­ered in this pro­gramme include: Young car­ers, friends, rela­tion­ships, fam­i­ly, chil­dren and young peo­ple, fibromyal­gia, fire safe­ty, depres­sion, men­tal health, peer sup­port and mul­ti­ple sclerosis.

Paul Evans: Hel­lo, I’m Paul Evans and wel­come to Air­ing Pain the pro­gramme brought to you by Pain Con­cern, the UK char­i­ty pro­vid­ing infor­ma­tion and sup­port for those of us liv­ing with pain and health­care professionals.

Young­sters: I’m Amy Ver­non, I’m Sophie Car­roll, I’m Adri­an Grif­fiths and I’m Tom Hall.

Evans: And where are we today, what we doing?

All: We’re are at the Welsh Inter­na­tion­al Climb­ing Centre,

Evans: It will all become clear in just a moment [laughs]. Now accord­ing to the last UK cen­sus – that was in 2011 – there were just under 170,000 young unpaid car­ers – that’s five to sev­en­teen year olds – in Eng­land and Wales. Over all, Wales had the high­est pro­por­tion, with more than 11,500 young car­ers. Two years after that cen­sus, the Welsh Gov­ern­ment set out its car­ers strat­e­gy for Wales, in which five pri­or­i­ty areas were iden­ti­fied. Health and Social Care, Iden­ti­fi­ca­tion, Infor­ma­tion and Con­sul­ta­tion, car­ers and employ­ment, young car­ers and young adult car­ers and sup­port and a life out­side the car­ing role.

And it’s those last two pri­or­i­ties that bring me here to the Coun­ty Bor­ough of Rhond­da Cynon Taf – you’ll hear it called ‘RCT’ for short – in what was the heart of the min­ing and iron indus­tries, in Wales’s south east­ern corner.

Amy, Sophie, Adri­an and Tom are amongst the thir­ty or so young and young adult car­ers on a three day res­i­den­tial activ­i­ty, social and edu­ca­tion break. So what’s in store for them?

Adri­an and Sophie: What we’re doing is sex­u­al health, fire safe­ty, alco­hol and drugs and all I know is on Thurs­day we’re doing cav­ing or rock climb­ing.

Sophie: I’m doing Zumba.

Evans: But you’re all young adult carers.

Adri­an: I’m a young car­er. I’m only 17, but I’m 18 in August.

Sophie: Aw, bless!

Evans: So who do you care for?

Adri­an: My moth­er.

Evans: Why does she need car­ing for?

Adri­an: ‘Cos she has pul­monary hyper­ten­sion, which is basi­cal­ly clots on the lungs. She had an oper­a­tion but her chest is that much open now, it’s open­ing slow­ly cos she had an infec­tion when she came home and they took the bars out with­out telling her and now her chest is basi­cal­ly like that [indi­cates width] and don’t blame me I’ve nev­er tried and I nev­er want to, nor has she, but she says she can feel the gap and if you want to, you can poke down with your arm.

Evans: What does being a young car­er for your moth­er mean to you?

Adri­an: It means I have to do more car­ing than oth­er peo­ple, basi­cal­ly. So when­ev­er peo­ple say, ‘Do you want to come out?’ and I say, ‘I’ve got to care for my Mum’ – and I don’t mind doing that – I’m not one of those peo­ple who say [groan] ‘I hate car­ing for my mum.’

Sophie: Then again, you must mind.

Adri­an: The only thing I don’t like is when your friends say ‘do you want to come out’ and I say ‘I’m car­ing for my moth­er’ – they think it’s just an excuse.

Sophie: Yeah, I’ve had that before.

Adri­an: And the only far­away place I’ve ever gone with­out my moth­er is Thor­pe Park and Drake Manor and that’s basi­cal­ly one day.

Evans: So your mum is reliant on you?

Adri­an: I do care for my moth­er a lot, say I am not there, my sis­ters will do it for me, ‘cos they’re here too. She does do some things her­self, even though it kills her to do it. Like if my father is in work and I’m not here to help and nei­ther are my sis­ters, she will get up and do the wash­ing and do what­ev­er she needs and we’ll come home and she’ll be there dou­bled over and breath­ing heav­i­ly. What upsets me is she will do all that and she would­n’t have asked any­one else to do it. That’s why I love her so much.

Sophie, Amy Tom: Aw!

Ker­ris Olen-Jones: My name is Ker­ris Olsen-Jones and I work with young adult car­ers in RCT. So that’s car­ers, who’ve got a par­ent, neigh­bour or rel­a­tive who’ve got some sort of dis­abil­i­ty, and they have to be between the ages of 18 and 25.

Evans: So young adult car­ers start at 18.

Olsen-Jones: Yes, yes.

Evans: But there are peo­ple that are a lot younger than that – they’re young car­ers.

Olsen-Jones: Yes, that’s right and we have girls in our team who work specif­i­cal­ly with young carers.

Evans: We’re in the Bor­ough of Rhond­da Cynon Taf, which is the indus­tri­al South East of Wales, the most pop­u­lat­ed part of South Wales. Now, tell me about the young car­er project you’re involved with.

Olsen-Jones: The Young Car­er Project basi­cal­ly involves us as a team, going out, tak­ing in refer­rals and going out and doing assess­ments on the young peo­ple to estab­lish their needs and the needs of the fam­i­ly, as we cater for the fam­i­ly unit. We then com­mis­sion a project, that Action for Chil­dren run at the moment, and that gives each young car­er an oppor­tu­ni­ty to go to a group and meet up with oth­er young car­ers in sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tions and sim­i­lar age groups on a week­ly basis.

To be able to go to the project, they have to be five years old and then they go to the project until they’re 17. Although we have expe­ri­enced and done assess­ments on peo­ple who were younger than that and have some car­ing respon­si­bil­i­ty, although they can’t access the project until they are five years old.

Evans: Five years is incred­i­bly young, what issues do they face?

Olsen-Jones: It could be any­thing from putting the wash­ing in, ‘cos mum’s not able to bend down to the wash­ing machine or mum’s not able to turn the dials on the microwave, so maybe doing that. We had some peo­ple who’ve helped mum up the stairs. There’s loads of dif­fer­ent sit­u­a­tions we’ve come across [of car­ers] as young as five years old.

Evans: What’s your name then?

Leon: My name’s Leon.

Evans: How old are you?

Leon: I’m four­teen.

Evans: Who do you care for Leon?

Leon: My moth­er.

Evans: What’s the mat­ter with her?

Leon: She suf­fers with depres­sion, she’s got anx­i­ety, so I have to go with her to places so she feels safe. I have to look after her and the house. I go places with her like shop­ping ‘cos she can’t go on her own and I help her clean the house and organ­ise things.

Evans: Do you feel you’re miss­ing out on things because you’re look­ing after Mum?

Leon: I don’t go out much because I have to look after her but I’ve start­ed going out places.

Evans: What does mum think about the way you look after her?

Leon: She finds me very help­ful, it’s a good job that I help her, if not she’d be even worse.

Evans: So what’s it like com­ing away with oth­er young car­ers, like we have today?

Leon: I think the Young Car­ers is a real­ly good oper­a­tion because you get to go out to oth­er places. You get to be accom­pa­nied and you find new friends. This is my first time here and I’ve found two or three new friends already. It’s real­ly good it is, it’s a good way to get out of the house and they also do sup­port, help­ing your par­ents and that.

[Back­ground conversation]

DJ: My names DJ and we’re here at some­thing called the Sum­mit Cen­tre. It has a big climb­ing wall and there’s loads of activ­i­ties. What we’re doing right now is the team build­ing tasks and it’s a love­ly Welsh day, a bit over­cast with a slight chance of driz­zle and, yeah, we’ll see how it goes.

[To audi­ence] On your marks, get set, go!

Evans: They’re all very shy and qui­et at the moment.

DJ: Yes indeed. Prob­a­bly the first prob­lem that’s around is the lack of com­mu­ni­ca­tion between these teams, so we’ll work on that and see what happens.

Adri­an: I don’t know what any of your moth­ers or who­ev­er you care for is like but to me no-one can com­pare with my mother.

Sophie: No, same here or my broth­er, both of them.

Evans: So you look after your mother?

Sophie: And my broth­er. My father is not on the scene. I don’t think I would change what I do now.

Adri­an: Even though my moth­er is ill, the only thing I’d do to change things is obvi­ous­ly to make her bet­ter, I would­n’t swap her for the world.

Sophie: I would­n’t, see? I know my brother’s got autism and my mother’s got depres­sion but I would­n’t even change their ill­ness­es, oth­er­wise I would­n’t have the mem­o­ries I’ve got.

Evans: When you say you would­n’t change any­thing because you’ve got all these mem­o­ries, what do you mean? I don’t under­stand that.

Sophie: My broth­er has autism so he can go on for­ev­er talk­ing about a spe­cif­ic thing, or some­thing like that and he can do these ran­dom things and he does things to his radio up in his bed­room and when you come in he imme­di­ate­ly shuts up and shrink down in his chair and stuff like that. And when he’s on hol­i­day he can do com­plete­ly ran­dom things. He’ll be sit­ting here one minute then he’ll get up and start dancing.

It’s mem­o­ries like that, it’s the same as my mum, even though she’s got depres­sion, she can have a day when she’s on her arse all day and then one day she’ll sud­den­ly laugh at some­thing on the TV and we’ll laugh for an hour. It’s stuff like that I would­n’t change, ‘cos if they were ‘nor­mal’, if you get what I mean, I would­n’t have those mem­o­ries. I would­n’t have my broth­er in the school play spray­ing his teacher with sil­ly string, you know so…

Adri­an: [laughs] I know what you mean.

Tom: That’s every kid’s dream, isn’t it?

Sophie: And his head teacher comes out and says, ‘that’s the end of the play’ and he pulls a face… bril­liant! If he did­n’t have autism, I’m not say­ing he would­n’t do that if he did­n’t, but I would­n’t have that memory.

Tom: Same as you, with all the mem­o­ries, I would­n’t change her for the world.

Sophie: I would­n’t change it any­way ‘cos we would­n’t get to come here, and this is actu­al­ly quite fun and I’ve met a load of peo­ple that I would­n’t change either, like Deb, she’s a work­er by the way I used to have her in young car­ers. I don’t regret meet­ing her for one minute.

Emma: She’s awesome

Sophie: I tell every­one I meet, that I reck­on she saved my life, ‘cos when I first con­tact­ed her, I was­n’t this per­son.

Evans: Who’s Deb?

Sophie: She’s a young car­ers work­er. She’s the first key work­er I had and when I first came to Young Car­ers I was­n’t the per­son I am now. I would­n’t talk to any­one. I’d lit­er­al­ly sit and stare at the wall all day. Then I met Deb and she just sort of takes you and goes, ‘right, you’re gonna do this and I’ll be there with you’ and she brings you out of your shell and, like I say, she lit­er­al­ly saved my life.

Adult activ­i­ty leader: Before we get going on this one, what makes a good team?

Young car­ers: [shout] Com­mu­ni­ca­tion, lis­ten­ing skills, under­stand­ing each oth­er, all of us know­ing what we’re doing in the plan of things.

Adult activ­i­ty leader: Def­i­nite­ly, that’s a good one, with that in mind, the next chal­lenge is to stand behind these… [Excit­ed shout­ing] The ball is not allowed to stop mov­ing, if it stops or goes backwards…

Sophie: But the oth­er team stopped.

Adult activ­i­ty leader: Yes, I know, they should­n’t have – got­ta keep the ball rolling.

Sophie: Rolling, rolling, rolling…

Adult activ­i­ty leader: Every­body happy?

Tom: I’m not unhap­py… [laughs]

Adult activ­i­ty leader: Well that’s ok. I want you to have a lit­tle chat and work out how you’re going to do it, have a lit­tle play and I’m going to time you to see if you can do it.

Sophie: I was sui­ci­dal when I first came here, I was going through a lot of stuff in school, being bul­lied because of my broth­er and moth­er and then one of the teach­ers in school rec­om­mend­ed Young Car­ers. When I first went on it, Deb came to my house and I remem­ber she was wear­ing this top, it had the queen from Snow White, the wicked queen, that’s what she had that on the front of it. And that’s what I remem­ber and [laughs] she’s about the same age as my mum and she’s got the wicked queen on her top [laughs], then she came in.

The first time we went out I was real­ly qui­et. I did­n’t want to talk to any­body and she took me to the house, the big house, every­body knows that and I met this group of boys who, hon­est to God, were about the dullest peo­ple I’ve ever met. ‘Cos we were just sit­ting here, we weren’t talk­ing, Deb got up in the mid­dle of the room and said, ‘This is Sophie, this is Jim, Bob, what­ev­er and she got us togeth­er and then it seemed like we’d been there for­ev­er. I’m still friends with them now, I’m still friends. Every­thing with this has done a lot for me. I got into Col­lege through Young Car­ers. I got my best friend through here and my first boyfriend here [laughs] even thought that’s a bit embar­rass­ing [laugh­ter].

Sophie: I’ve gained a lot from being on this course.

Adri­an: This project does change you.

Sophie: It does change your life

Adri­an: My per­son­al­i­ty was sim­i­lar to yours – I’d be like, until some­one talks to me, I would­n’t talk to any­one. And then Becky, Debs brought me out of my shell basi­cal­ly and then I met you lot and already in the first half an hour we’ve had a hell of a laugh.

Tom: I was exact­ly the same, before I start­ed on the project, I did­n’t real­ly go and talk to any­one – I just sort of stayed to myself. I’ve been on quite a few of these res­i­den­tials and oth­er events and I’ve enjoyed it. It’s real­ly made me who I am today, basically.

Evans: Who do you care for?

Tom: I care for my mother.

Evans: What’s she got?

Tom: She got MS (Mul­ti­ple Sclerosis).

Evans: So what does that mean to you?

Tom: I’m not real­ly sure where to start with it.

Evans: Does it iso­late you?

Sophie: I think any­one who cares for some­one – it iso­lates them, no mat­ter what it is.

Tom: Yeah, I sup­pose it does in a way, yeah.

Evans: I know when I was car­ing for my father – admit­ted­ly, my father was in his eight­ies and I was in my fifties – the whole focus of your life changes, you can’t actu­al­ly think what’s changed, but it has. Do you agree?

Young car­ers: Yeah.

Sophie: Yeah, I’ve been car­ing for them since I was six. I did­n’t realise, I thought it was what every kid does. I think that’s why not many peo­ple come for­ward about it. You’ve got to have some­one realise you are a young car­er before you do. I thought every kid is doing this – every kid is look­ing after their mum when she cries. Every kid is help­ing their moth­er bathe their brother.

Evans: But how many kids have seen their par­ents cry, I cer­tain­ly hadn’t.

Adri­an: It breaks my heart when my moth­er cries, that’s part of the rea­son I care for her.

Sophie: Yeah, but you do it ‘cos you want to. At the end of the day, you could always go to the doc­tors and say ‘My moth­er is ill.’

Adri­an and Sophie: And say ‘Chuck her in hospital.’

Evans: I was going to use the word bur­den, but it’s an incred­i­ble respon­si­bil­i­ty on some­body that young.

Olsen-Jones: Yeah, I think it’s impor­tant to stress that lots of young peo­ple that we work with don’t see it as a bur­den, they see it as part of their lives – they’ve always done it. They enjoy doing it. Often car­ers find they’ve got a strong rela­tion­ship with the per­son that they care for because of the respon­si­bil­i­ty that they take on. It does have an impact on their life, on every aspect of their life but, gen­er­al­ly, the young peo­ple are hap­py to do it and feel that they’re doing some­thing valuable.

Evans: The peo­ple I have spo­ken to today, what impress­es me most is they seem incred­i­bly mature, beyond their age.

Olsen-Jones: Yeah, they’re real­ly liv­ing the lives of adults as young peo­ple, because they have to, because that’s the way they are liv­ing at home. They are incred­i­bly respon­si­ble in many aspects of their life. But of course because of cer­tain respon­si­bil­i­ties they’ve got in their lives, they miss the oppor­tu­ni­ty to be chil­dren and some­times you’ll see the old­er car­ers are quite child­like in their ways.

Evans: We can hear it now. [Laughs] But that’s anoth­er thing about this week away – they’re allowed to be children.

Olsen-Jones: Yeah, yeah! We encour­age them to mix, to socialise with peo­ple they haven’t met before. We do team build­ing events where we make sure they’re split up from the peo­ple they know, so they devel­op those rela­tion­ships with oth­ers. They don’t usu­al­ly get to socialise much as a group, they’re qui­et iso­lat­ed. It’s quite nice to give them the oppor­tu­ni­ty to just be them­selves, for­get about any stress or pres­sures at home and just enjoy their time here. [Young peo­ple laugh­ing and play­ing in the back­ground and dis­cussing the game]

Adri­an: My sis­ters were at school and for some rea­son – I don’t know why, I don’t remem­ber – I was at home and my moth­er start­ed cry­ing and we shout­ed ‘what’s wrong?’And she said ‘my chest feels like it’s cav­ing in’. We rang our nan and she and my sis­ter came up and the ambu­lance came and she burst out cry­ing, ‘cos she don’t like going into hos­pi­tal. That’s what got me upset and my old­er sis­ter com­fort­ed me and then when I went down to the hos­pi­tal in the after­noon and the doc­tor came in and he basi­cal­ly said it’s touch and go [sobs]. Sorry.

Sophie: It’s fine, don’t worry.

Adri­an: Well basi­cal­ly, she was in there for two weeks and the first week it was touch and go and every day I was cry­ing, ‘cos I love my moth­er too much and would­n’t want to lose her and I dread the day when that happens.

When I saw her in the bed and she had all this wire stick­ing in her arm and one in her chest – she had a thing going up her nose and down into her bron­chi­oles and she also had a gas mask on. As soon as I walked in and saw that, I burst out and I had to walk out – I could­n’t see my moth­er like that.

Now she’s doing fine now she’s back in the house and I’m very hap­py and when they final­ly rec­ti­fy her chest and she obvi­ous­ly gets slow­ly better.

Evans: How do chil­dren come to your atten­tion, do they have to apply or does it get spot­ted in school that they’re under pressure?

Olsen-Jones: More and more it’s get­ting spot­ted in school and that’s because of the train­ing that’s being devel­oped and imple­ment­ed in schools at the moment due to leg­is­la­tion that’s com­ing in in Wales called The Car­ers Mea­sure’. So more and more we’re get­ting refer­rals from schools and we get an odd num­ber of dif­fer­ent peo­ple – nurs­es, GP’s, friends, any­where real­ly can make a refer­ral to us. We just need to know their name and address and to know they’re hap­py for us to pop along, we make con­tact and go along and do the assess­ment from there, but any­one can refer really.

Evans: So what do you assess? What’s the process?

Olsen-Jones: So, there’s a dif­fer­ence real­ly between young adult car­ers – because they come under adult ser­vices – and young car­ers come under chil­dren’s ser­vices. But the assess­ment process is basi­cal­ly look­ing at the fam­i­ly sit­u­a­tion, the family’s needs, look­ing at the carer’s – the young per­son­’s – respon­si­bil­i­ty in the house – see­ing if that’s an accept­able amount of respon­si­bil­i­ty or not and then putting things in place, in order to sup­port them in their role. And, obvi­ous­ly, if it’s an unac­cept­able amount of car­ing that they’re doing, then we’ve got to look close­ly into that, and we’ve got to get addi­tion­al and dif­fer­ent ser­vices in to sup­port that.

Evans: Can I just ask you who you are, what your names are?

Emma: Emma.

Court­ney: Courtney.

Evans: You’re both young car­ers – tell me what that means, who do you care for?

Court­ney: My moth­er, ‘cos she’s dis­abled, she can’t do any­thing for her­self, she depends on me and my father really.

Evans: In what way does she depend on you?

Court­ney: In every way – get­ting dressed, hav­ing a bath, going to the toi­let, every­thing.

Evans: How old are you, Courtney?

Court­ney: Fourteen.

Evans: Do you get out to play with your friends?

Court­ney: Some­times I get out, like, on the week­ends, when my father is here.

Evans: What does it mean for you?

Emma: Well, I care for my moth­er and my father – they’re both classed as dis­abled, they’re both depen­dent on me. I hard­ly ever go out, ‘cos obvi­ous­ly, I’ve got responsibilities.

Evans: How impor­tant is it to get away with oth­er young car­ers in a week like this?

Emma: It’s alright like, ‘cos it’s a break but I do so wor­ry about my moth­er, if she’s coping.

Evans: How did you get involved with the Young Car­ers Project in the first place? I know you’re young carers…

Emma: It was through my school because they were ask­ing me to do E3 [A scheme pro­vid­ing school­child­ren with extra-cur­ric­u­lar activ­i­ties] and obvi­ous­ly I could­n’t because my moth­er and father are dis­abled and they need­ed me there.

Evans: So it’s the school who put you in touch with the Young Car­ers Project?

Emma: Yeah, yeah.

Evans: And you Courtney?

Court­ney: It was my social worker.

Evans: Your social work­er helped you. Are you glad she did?

Court­ney: In a way, yeah, ‘cos it’s like a break away from it and things.

Julie Good­field: Good after­noon all. My name is Julie Good­field and I’m a home fire safe­ty advi­sor for South Wales Fire and Res­cue Ser­vice. My main job is to vis­it homes with­in the South Wales area, and gen­er­al­ly talk about reduc­ing the risk of fire in the home.

Evans: So what are you going to tell the young car­ers today?

Good­field: It’s lit­tle tips real­ly to look out for. The first impor­tant one is to check they do have work­ing smoke alarms in the prop­er­ty and then we talk about cook­ing meth­ods and mak­ing sure things are switched of etc. and not left unat­tend­ed. We also talk about what you would do in the event of a fire and [how] it’s good prac­tice to keep exit ways clear, espe­cial­ly hav­ing a night-time rou­tine, mak­ing sure every­thing is switched off.

In most cir­cum­stances, I would advise ring­ing 999 and get­ting out of the prop­er­ty as soon as they pos­si­bly could any­way. But things like over­load­ing elec­tri­cal sock­ets. A lot of peo­ple don’t seem to be aware that… a thir­teen amp plug, any­thing more in there could be a bit of an over­load. So it’s gen­er­al safe­ty tips and advice about keep­ing safe in the home.

Evans: Is it more per­ti­nent to young carers?

Good­field: It’s impor­tant for every­one just to take on board fire safe­ty with­in the house and I think for young peo­ple it’s good because they can per­haps advise old­er gen­er­a­tions, espe­cial­ly with elec­tri­cal sock­ets and that some­times there is too much amper­age being used, espe­cial­ly with things today like mobile phone charg­ers, Sky box­es, Xbox­es and games, ‘let’s just chuck it into one sock­et and hap­py days’. But if you’ve got a lot of heat there, it’s good advice again and safe­ty and tips, right we’d bet­ter spread that out, rather than caus­ing a fire.

Evans: I sup­pose one thing you have to get across is, if there is a fire, don’t try and fight it.

Good­field: Exact­ly, yeah, yeah, try to pre­vent the fire hap­pen­ing in the first place, so we dis­cuss issues like cook­ing meth­ods, can­dles, plug-in things like air fresh­en­ers that are left on, they can actu­al­ly shat­ter as well. Get an escape plan in their minds. But in the event of fire, nev­er tack­le because it spread so quick­ly and so fast – we’re talk­ing under a minute. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, espe­cial­ly at night-time when it’s not vis­i­ble, smoke can kill before the actu­al fire, so it’s always good to test your smoke alarms reg­u­lar. We do try and say test them once a week but if they just test them reg­u­lar, just to put their minds at rest that they are working.

Good­field: Have you all got smoke alarms at home? No?

Young car­ers: [In uni­son] Yes, yeah.

Good­field: How often do you think you should test them?

Young car­er 1: Every ten years.

Good­field: Every ten years !

Young car­er 1: Well that’s what the fire­man said to my nan.

Young car­er 2: No, every week.

Good­field: That’s true in many aspects, but the ones we give out come with a ten year bat­tery. It’s still good to test them once a week, get into a lit­tle bit of a rou­tine. Has any­one been involved in a fire?

Ethan: Me.

Good­field: Are you hap­py to talk about it?

Evans: Tell me your name.

Ethan: Ethan Mason.

Evans: And you’re a young carer?

Ethan: Yeah.

Evans: Who do you care for?

Ethan: I care for my moth­er, she was diag­nosed with fibromyal­gia and ME (myal­gic encephalopa­thy, pre­vi­ous­ly encephali­tis), so she finds it quite hard to go day by day. I have to care for her and look after her and that.

Evans: So how does she rely on you?

Ethan: She finds it hard to get up in the morn­ing. She finds it hard to do sim­ple tasks. Then I have to help her with cer­tain things. I have to help around the house, look after my sib­lings and stuff, yeah.

Evans: How old are your siblings?

Ethan: One’s eleven and one’s three.

Evans: We just had a talk from the Fire Safe­ty Officer.

Ethan: Yeah.

Evans: You were say­ing you have had a fire in your house, tell me some­thing about that.

Ethan: In the kitchen, there was an elec­tri­cal fault and a fire start­ed. I walked into the kitchen and obvi­ous­ly the flames were get­ting out of con­trol, so I had to grab my sis­ter and get her out of the house, My mum was sleep­ing at the time because she was unwell, so I had to get her out of the house and I had to ring the fire ser­vice to come and put the fire out. Because my mum was unwell, I had to get both my sis­ters out to try and pro­tect them from the fire.

Evans: Some of the young adults that I have spo­ken to today have incred­i­ble love and loy­al­ty towards their parents.

Olsen-Field: Oh yeah, def­i­nite­ly, It’s like a mother’s love real­ly, but it’s the child expe­ri­enc­ing it for the par­ent. It’s because they care for lots of their needs – they play that par­ent role to an extent and because of that they’ve got that loy­al­ty there. There’s love there. They’ve got what any par­ent would have. It’s almost role rever­sal real­ly, to an extent.

Evans: The edu­ca­tion side, sex­u­al health, cook­ing, fire safe­ty, that all sounds very seri­ous and it is seri­ous but the impres­sion I got, is that is that they’re get­ting an awful lot out of just being together.

Olsen-Field: Oh yeah, the oppor­tu­ni­ty for them to get togeth­er, meet oth­er peo­ple who are in sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tions to them­selves and sim­i­lar expe­ri­ences, is real­ly essen­tial. Hav­ing the adult car­ers here also shows them what life might be like for them in a cou­ple of years time when they hit that age and it real­ly shows the young car­ers that they can still con­tin­ue with their edu­ca­tion, they can go to col­lege and life does­n’t stop because of their car­ing role.

Evans: My thanks to all those involved with the Rhond­da Cynon Taf Young Car­ers Project in South Wales.

Don’t for­get that you can still down­load all the pre­vi­ous edi­tions of Air­ing Pain or obtain CD copies direct from Pain Con­cern. If you’d to put a ques­tion to Pain Concern’s pan­el of experts or just make a com­ment about these pro­grammes, then please do so via our blog, mes­sage board, email, Twit­ter or even pen and paper.

All the con­tact details are on our web­site, which is painconcern.org.uk and whilst we believe the opin­ions and infor­ma­tion giv­en on Air­ing Pain are accu­rate and sound, based on the best judge­ments avail­able, you should always con­sult your health pro­fes­sion­al on any mat­ter relat­ing to your health and well­be­ing. He or she is the only per­son who knows you and your cir­cum­stances and there­fore the appro­pri­ate action to take on your behalf.

There’s more infor­ma­tion for and on young car­ers in Wales at childreninwales.org.uk that’s one word childreninwales.org.uk.

Evans: One last ques­tion, how impor­tant is it for you all to get togeth­er at these res­i­den­tial courses?

Young car­ers: Very impor­tant, very.

Sophie: I’m gonna sound sop­py right now but if I did­n’t have these lot to cheer me up, I hon­est­ly would­n’t be here.

Adri­an: If it was­n’t for this, you would­n’t know how oth­er peo­ple felt and you’d feel like you are the only per­son doing this. In your case [Sophie] you’d think every­one else does this and it’s normal. .

Sophie: Yeah, I don’t think any of us would be the peo­ple we are, if we did­n’t come to things like this.

Adri­an: If it was­n’t for this, I would­n’t have the con­fi­dence to go to college.


Con­trib­u­tors:

  • Adri­an, Amy, Court­ney, Emma, Ethan, Leon, Sophie, Tom, young carers
  • Ker­ris OIsen-Jones, Young Adult Car­er Devel­op­ment Worker
  • DJ, Young Adult Car­er Sup­port Worker
  • Julie Good­field, Fire Safe­ty Officer.

More infor­ma­tion:

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