Kids aged 4 act­ing as car­ers

Shock­ing statis­tics re­vealed to coun­cil

Llanelli Star - - Front Page -

I com­mend the work you are do­ing. You are def­i­nitely sav­ing lives

- Coun­cil­lor Rob Evans

I was shocked that a young carer was four years old. You just can’t get your head around it

Coun­cil­lor Bill Thomas

THE plight of car­ers as young as four years old who look af­ter sick and trou­bled rel­a­tives has shocked coun­cil­lors in Car­marthen­shire.

Mags Wil­liams, the coun­cil’s young car­ers man­ager, said the ser­vice helped chil­dren and young adults who of­ten hid their prob­lems from teach­ers and class­mates.

She said the ser­vice was at the “cri­sis” end of the spec­trum, and that iden­ti­fy­ing young car­ers in need of sup­port was tricky in it­self.

“Young peo­ple are of­ten very sen­si­tive about their home life, es­pe­cially about men­tal health and sub­stance abuse,” she said. “They’re very wor­ried they’re go­ing to be taken into care.”

Miss Wil­liams said young car­ers were of­ten very tired, anx­ious, lonely, and late for or ab­sent from school.

Some were bul­lied, she said, and felt an­gry while oth­ers dis­played “chal­leng­ing be­hav­iour”.

She said: “They feel, ‘Why is this hap­pen­ing to me? Why can’t I have a nor­mal fam­ily?’”

Around half those helped by the young car­ers and young adult carer ser­vices have rel­a­tives with men­tal health and/ or al­co­hol and sub­stance prob­lems, while the other half have rel­a­tives with a phys­i­cal dis­abil­ity or dis­ease.

Miss Wil­liams said: “The youngest we’ve had was aged four.”

This child’s par­ent was bed-bound, and the young­ster would empty the par­ent’s bucket toi­let and also heat up meals in the mi­crowave to help out. Miss Wil­liams said the par­ent now re­ceived a full pack­age of care fol­low­ing in­ter­ven­tion.

An­other suc­cess­ful case study, whose de­tails are too graphic and shock­ing to re­port, had al­lowed the sib­lings con­cerned to progress into fur­ther ed­u­ca­tion.

Miss Wil­liams said in 17 years of do­ing the job she had never seen so many sui­cide at­tempts among young peo­ple whose lives had been af­fected by rel­a­tives with these range of is­sues and needs.

She added: “They (young car­ers) want to feel sup­ported, to be un­der­stood, to be happy, to be con­fi­dent and se­cure.”

There were also prac­ti­cal el­e­ments to their role, such as know­ing the side-ef­fects of med­i­ca­tion.

The av­er­age age of young car­ers UK-wide is 12, and one in five of them misses school.

Miss Wil­liams and her col­leagues work with other de­part­ments and or­gan­i­sa­tions such as adult so­cial ser­vices, child and ado­les­cent men­tal health ser­vices, col­lege men­tors, po­lice and the char­ity Cross­roads Care. The coun­cil also pro­vides a “hid­den from harm ser­vice” for young peo­ple who don’t have to be car­ers but whose fam­ily life is af­fected by al­co­hol and sub­stance mis­use. Coun­cil­lors from two scru­tiny com­mit­tees who lis­tened to the pre­sen­ta­tion asked what they could do to sup­port the work of the ser­vice, how the coun­cil pro­moted the young adult carer ser­vice in col-

Young peo­ple are of­ten very sen­si­tive about their home life, es­pe­cially about men­tal health and sub­stance abuse. They’re very wor­ried they’re go­ing to be taken into care

Mags Wil­liams, the coun­cil’s young car­ers man­ager

leges, and what checks could be done if a young carer was be­ing home ed­u­cated.

Coun­cil­lor Rob Evans said: “I com­mend the work you are do­ing. You are def­i­nitely sav­ing lives.”

Bethan James, the coun­cil’s cor­po­rate par­ent­ing man­ager, said home ed­u­ca­tion was a parental right, but that the coun­cil had a duty to en­sure it was safe for a child and that he or she had their ed­u­ca­tional en­ti­tle­ment “from a rights point of view”.

“We mon­i­tor all chil­dren who are home ed­u­cated that we know of,” she said. The dif­fi­cultly, she added, was that par­ents did not have to no­tify their lo­cal author­ity they were home-school­ing their child if that child had never been en­rolled in school in the first place.

Coun­cil­lor Dar­ren Price, chair­man of the ed­u­ca­tion and chil­dren scru­tiny com­mit­tee, said: “We do have a big con­cern about this as a com­mit­tee. We are in con­tact with the min­is­ter in Cardiff.

“I think the leg­is­la­tion is quite wishy-washy at the mo­ment.”

Coun­cil­lor Em­lyn Schi­avone said he felt that find­ing and help­ing young car­ers was a top pri­or­ity.

“Why are we los­ing these chil­dren?” he said.

“Why are they fall­ing through the gaps. It’s in­cred­i­ble – it’s very sad. But I’m not throw­ing the blame at any­body.”

Coun­cil­lor Bill Thomas said: “I was shocked that a young carer was four years old. You just can’t get your head around it.”

Coun­cil­lors heard that the author­ity was due to in­tro­duce a new well­be­ing strat­egy next year, with train­ing for staff part of the plan, and that pupil well-be­ing would be part of the school cur­ricu­lum in two years’ time.

Ms James said: “I think it is an enor­mous chal­lenge.”

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