Young carers from across Norfolk quizzed politicians and decision-makers

Young carers from across Norfolk quizzed politicians and decision-makers about the provision of care services during a special Question Time event at County Hall.

Twenty-five youngsters, aged between 11-19, put their questions to a panel including Norwich MPs Chloe Smith and Simon Wright, Daniel Phelps from the Carers Trust and Anne Smyth from the Standing Commission for Carers. Officers from Norfolk County Council’s children’s services department were also in the audience.

The event was organised by the Norfolk Young Carers Forum, which works to represent young carers, improve their support and give them opportunities to make their voices heard.

It follows the publication of census information showing rises in the number of young people who have a caring responsibility for someone in their family who has a physical or mental illness, a disability, or a substance misuse problem.

Questions raised at the forum included what efforts were being made to prevent the bullying of socially-isolated young carers at school and to have their interests included in new government legislation. They also urged funding to maintained for services in Norfolk whose contracts are due for renewal.

Forum participation worker Jo Brown said: “It is very easy for professionals to say these things, but they have so much more power when it comes out of the mouth of young carers themselves.

“One of them told me they can feel powerless. We let them take on really adult responsibilities, but we don’t listen to them in the same way as adults. People come to an event like this and they really listen and respect those viewpoints being put across.

“That is very important. It is important for the politicians because they will listen more, and it is important for the young carers because they know they don’t have to jump up and down to get something done.”

Following the debate, Mr Wright said: “What was useful for me and Chloe Smith was hearing the difference that legislation could potentially make to ensure young carers get the support they need to do that important job. At the same time, it is important that young carers are protected from inappropriate levels of responsibility.

“This forum is very effective in the role it plays in raising awareness of young carers issues in the county, and looking at whether more could be done to help the fantastic roles they do across the county.

“One of the big issues is that many of the organisations that young people come into contact with on a regular basis won’t be aware of the caring responsibility of that young person and all that entails.

“At school, a teacher may not be aware that they have a young carer in their class, but they will recognise that homework is not coming in or maybe their attendance is not perfect. There may be a very good reason for that, but quite often a young person may not want their teacher to know that they are a carer. So there needs to be a lot more understanding across schools, and how young people are supported in schools is another very important issue which came out.

“It is so important that all services which young people come into contact with are ‘carer-aware,’ whether it is health services, GP practices or schools.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

 characters available