When recently I was told that a 12-year-old boy was looking after his disabled mother, and by that I mean in a capacity of a full time carer, I have to admit to raising my eyebrows in some disbelief. Yet it was true. This youngster was relied upon to carry out the duties of an adult carer which included doing the shopping, cooking a meal, and generally looking after the needs of his mother.
And what is truly remarkable about this story is that this was not an isolated case. Incredibly there are over 300,000 young people in the UK caring for their brothers, sisters, parents or other relatives with physical or mental problems. It is estimated there are at least 20,000 in the North East region. Their average age is just 12, and unbelievably a 3-year-old has been identified as the youngest in our region.
These young people tend to exist in an isolated world of home care. They get up in the morning and see to general duties, before going off to school. After school it is more home care then bed. Their days are filled with domestic tasks and very often their education suffers as they have other pressures occupying their minds. Self-esteem is generally low and their skills are often limited. So full marks to Rotary in the North East which is launching a project that will give these children a break from their regular role as carers, by providing a stand-in carer for them while they receive professional training on how to make healthy nutritious meals on a tight budget. A six-week training course for groups of eight young people, and provide the cover for the carers while they are being trained. Rotary will also organise transport to and from the training centres, which will be based in local school or college kitchens and provided by professional chefs or cookery teachers, many of whom are donating their time to the project. Already three school and college locations have been identified as training centres.
Rotary will fund the whole project, and plans to expand it to include eight centres across the North East so that travelling distances are kept to a minimum.
As well as learning about healthy food and how to cook simple meals, they will meet other young carers in a safe and relaxed environment, so they will realise that they are not alone, and they will also find out more about the help that is available to them from organisations like the Carers Trust and local support agencies. You can read more on this story in Now&Then No.103 and for futher information on this project contact Peter Chandler District Governor of Rotary in the North East. (firstname.lastname@example.org).
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Peter Cook – Editor-in-Chief