Today, on Young Carers Action Day it's more important than ever to acknowledge how difficult the last year has been. It’s not in doubt everyone has had their life altered by the events of recent months but some have been affected more than others.
Nearly a year ago, when lockdown began, everyone was urged to stay home, schools moved online and many young carers were thrown into their roles full time. The pressure was on with questions piling up and no one knew the answers. Thankfully, a group of young adult carers, including myself, were invited to work with the Department of Health and Social Care on guidance for young carers.
As a young adult carer myself, I knew how important it was to have a voice in this process. How can someone who has never been in our position tell us how to get through what lay ahead?
Over the course of a few weeks, a group of us met with representatives from DHSC voicing our biggest concerns on the impacts of lockdown and what needed to change or become more clear. And people listened with the guidance published during the second lockdown in 2020 and still relevant even now.
The experience was a valuable one, and one that I know meant a lot to not only the young carers taking part, but for every young carer who could read the guidance and who got clarification in an uncertain situation.
Volunteering with The Children’s Society for the past eight years and working with them to raise awareness of young carers, I was thankfully in the perfect position to be invited onto zoom calls to share my thoughts on how lockdown was affecting people like me. Ultimately, it meant that someone was listening. It meant young carers had a voice.
Adapting - young carers are good at that
Although I don’t live with the family members I cared for, I was unable to do the things I would usually do, such as order online food shopping or go on doctor’s visits. Being on lockdown away from my family and not seeing them for over six months was the single hardest thing I have ever done, and probably will do for a very long time.
But being away from them didn’t mean my role stops. Like many young carers, it evolved. Instead of doing the food shopping from afar, I became a sounding board whenever my dad was too anxious to leave the house. Instead of scheduling doctor’s appointments, I scheduled zoom calls with my mum to make sure she saw another face during lockdown.
From speaking to other young carers during the drafting of guidance and on social media, I know I wasn’t the only one changing the way I did things. Young carers are among the most adaptable people I know and the past year has proved that. When thrown into unknown situations, we make sure the people we care for - and ourselves - are able to make it out the other side.