Life for young carers got even tougher during lockdown, with children juggling home learning and extra responsibilities without much chance for a break.
West Norfolk Young Carers, based in King’s Lynn, has been supporting a number of students at St Clement’s High School in Terrington St Clement.
Year Seven pupil Robyn Webster has had her first year of high school hugely disrupted by the pandemic and is also involved in looking after her 15-year-old brother Stanley, who has learning disabilities and a range of medical issues.
Described by her father Ed as “a pair of eyes in the back of our heads” for the way she helps her parents with care, Robyn said the pandemic had made life even more demanding for young carers.
“Usually my brother is at school every day, but now he’s not, there’s a lot more care to be done at home, making it harder to find time for other things,” she said.
Robyn said just knowing West Norfolk Young Carers was there made a real difference.
“Obviously at the moment things are limited, so we’re having to do a lot of activities online, but in normal times they do group activities like cinema trips and fun stuff that we can do together, without family, as well as providing support with the caring side of things. I can’t wait to get back to school, though, as I really miss seeing people.”
Another St Clement’s young carer is Year 11 student Charli Gibbs, who has an older brother with special needs and younger brother with ADHD.
“My parents run their own engineering firm which takes up a lot of time so I help out with general duties around the house, and looking after my brothers,” Charli said.
“My younger brother is at school during the day and sometimes my older brother goes off with mum and dad to do his work, so it doesn’t really impact on the school day too much, but there’s still a lot of extra work that needs doing.
“The carers’ group has really helped, we used to have meetings every couple of weeks where we can chat and play games and just relax a bit together. They also help with practical things.
“It can be tricky sometimes, trying to strike the balance, but teachers are understanding.”
Sara Nurse, children and families’ lead at the charity, said the school, part of the West Norfolk Academies Trust, was amazing for the support it provided young carers.
“For many of them, school is a release, their respite from caring duties, and at the moment they just don’t have that time,” she said.
“Life has become a lot more difficult for them, they have so much to deal with and it can be heartbreaking hearing some of their stories.
“Other friends who aren’t carers can’t understand what young carers go through, which is why carer communities like the one at St Clement’s are so necessary.
“There are 26 pupils identified at the school as being carers and about 15 have chosen to get involved with us.
“The school has a carer-friendly tick award from the Caring Together group, as well as a named member of staff who is the carers’ lead, and doing a lot in school to promote awareness of care work.”
Find out more at: www.westnorfolkcarers.org.uk