£30 Million Fund to Support Young Carers Launched

By Emma Foster, Community Newswire
LOTTERY Carers, 20 Jul 2010 – 10:09

A £30 million fund to support young people who care for a disabled or sick relative has been launched today.

Youth in Focus, a funding programme from the Big Lottery Fund, aims to provide support young carers and other vulnerable youngsters, such as those leaving youth offending institutions and young people leaving care.

The multi-million pound funding initiative will support projects that give these young people a voice and help them to access the advice and services that
can support them.

There are currently 175,000 known young carers across the UK who look after a family member or loved one with a physical or mental illness, though it is thought there may be thousands more hidden young carers.

As well as directly caring for their relative, young carers are often also responsible for day-to-day chores from cleaning to food shopping.

Jenny, a young carer from Southampton, now in her early 20s, grew up helping her mum to cope with her younger brother, who suffered from learning difficulties and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and also her drug and alcohol-dependent father.

She said: “The situation had a huge effect on my mum who was depressed, had very low self-esteem and felt out of control all of the time.

“She was not only trying to get my brother into school, look after him, she also had the issue of my dad who would get violent when he was drunk or high.

“Growing up, I just thought that was normal. It was just my brother and my dad. I knew that family life was hard and different to my friends, but I didn’t
see myself as a young carer.

“We really struggled financially – mum was rubbish with money and my dad was taking our money all the time to fund his habits.

“Mum could only work part-time jobs because when working full-time she was always getting called out of work.

“I used to help her fill in benefit forms, work out how much money we had and how much the bills were.

“I learned to cook from a really young age and even cooked Christmas dinner when I was seven.

“I always put my needs aside because I wanted to help my mum so much. We were very close and she would tell me everything.

“She was really isolated, so I was her only outlet. I helped with the housework – I would even go to work with her to help her.

“It didn’t matter what it was, I would do everything I possibly could – shopping, working out what meals we would have.

“She didn’t have the space in her brain to comprehend all that day-to-day stuff because she had so much else going on.

“I was basically the head of my family, always the strong person. I didn’t realise what the impact was.

“It all came to a head when I was 18 and I had a massive breakdown. I couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep, and I was in a really bad way. I couldn’t continue my
university course.”

Jenny now helps run a young carers project at Hampshire charity One Community Eastleigh. The project, which is funded by the Big Lottery Fund, provides young carers with much-needed respite including days out, weekly club nights and residential breaks.

She added: “I always strived to do the best I possibly could because I wanted to get myself out of the situation I was in at home.

“I always wanted to be better and do better than my family. It can go two ways when you’re a young carer, you can either get entrenched in it and it becomes your life, or you can try to rise above it – that’s what I always tried to do.

“I lacked confidence, but if I’d had a project like this to go to where I could just talk, where no one would judge me and where it wouldn’t have got back
to my family, I think it would have really helped me. It would have probably prevented me from having a breakdown.”

Sanjay Dighe, chair of Big Lottery Fund’s England Committee, said: “The funding we’re announcing today will help thousands of young people across England who are experiencing some very difficult circumstances and lack the normal support from families and friends that other young people receive.

“We want to fund projects that will offer support, improve these young people’s self-confidence and offer practical solutions for the challenges they face.

“We want our funding to help these young people make positive life transitions, helping them to lead active and fulfilling lives.”

The programme also aims to support young people leaving care between the ages of 15 and 25, so they get better access to education, housing, healthcare and employment advice and services.

Young people leaving youth offenders institutions between the ages of 15 and 25 will be supported to develop their life skills and get better access to
services, particularly young men with learning difficulties and young women.

Organisations interested in applying for Youth in Focus funding should visit www.biglotteryfund.org.uk/prog_youth_focus for more information. The Big Lottery Fund is also holding regional briefing events throughout September for groups interested in applying for funding.

The Big Lottery Fund is the largest distributor of National Lottery funding, responsible for giving out half of the money raised for good causes. It is
committed to bringing real improvements to communities and the lives of people most in need and has been rolling out grants to health, education, environment and charitable causes across the UK since 2004.

Reproduced from http://www.communitynewswire.press.net/article.jsp?id=6940346