Staff from Walsall Healthcare’s School Nursing service will be raising awareness about the hundreds of young carers in the borough in a bid to ensure more are identified and given the support they are entitled to.
As part of Young Carers Day tomorrow, Thursday 25 January, staff will host an information stand in the main atrium of Walsall Manor Hospital from 9.30am to 3pm. They want to help both adult and paediatric staff better identify young carers – many of whom remain “hidden” because they don’t realise they are a carer or may not know where to go for support. Others may fear being bullied or stay under the radar due to family loyalty.
A young carer is a person under the age of 18 who provides regular and ongoing care and emotional support to a family member, friend or neighbour who has a physical disability, a mental health issue or misuses substances.
The Children's Society has published statistics which show that across the West Midlands, there are 12,527 young people who are under the age of 16 providing unpaid care. In Walsall, the figures show 665 young people have caring responsibilities although the true figures are believed to be much higher.
Amanda Street, Specialist Community Public Health Practitioner – School Nurse with Walsall Healthcare, said: “It is so important that those of us who are most likely to come into contact with young carers can identify them and ensure they have access to the support that are entitled to.
“Anyone with caring responsibilities will tell you it is a challenging and often exhausting responsibility. It can be challenging for adult carers so imagine how much more difficult it is for a young person trying to juggle school or college, maintain friendships and deal with the issues that come with being a teenager for instance. Young carers can become socially isolated, they may develop behavioural problems or depression and feel stigmatised.
“We want Young Carers Day to provide an opportunity for all of us who work in healthcare to help young carers feel valued, to develop their personal and life skills and not to feel isolated with no support network.
“Our School Nursing service offers health advice to young carers to support them in ensuring their health needs are being met and signposts them to other agencies as required. We regularly liaise with schools to raise awareness of young carers and support the young carers agenda. We lead on work in co-ordinating engagement with Walsall’s children, young people, families and carers, in shaping strategy and service provision by working in partnership the Local Strategic Partnership, Children and Young Person's Strategic Partnership and other relevant partnerships to further children and young people’s involvement.”