Caring for Young Carers
Written by Linda Marsden, Training and Education Officer at NEA
Young Carers can find it tough. From an early age a young carer might take responsibility for a family member who has a disability, is chronically sick, experiences mental ill health or is misusing alcohol or drugs. On top of that, they might worry about getting homework done, household bills, getting the washing finished, shopping, the next meal… the list goes on.
NEA’s ‘Caring for Young Carers’ project is aiming to help young carers gain an understanding of ways to save money on fuel and water costs in their homes. Thanks to funding from Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks, the Thames Water Trust Fund, South East Water, Wessex Water and Bournemouth Water, we’ve been able to make contact with a range of young carer groups and organisations in the South of England, to offer advice and guidance on home energy and water use, which, in many cases is understandably high.
What quickly becomes clear is that young carers need time to relax away from home. Their regular clubs and group meetings offer a chance to chat to friends, seek advice from their leaders, play games… just time to be children.
So how best to get the information across as part of one of these meetings? Turn the information into a game. Offer the information as a quiz. Set a challenge for the young people to meet. Keep it light-hearted while getting key messages across.
So that’s what we did. Working alongside group leaders, we’ve been attending regular meetings and engaging young carers in quizzes to make them think, puzzles so that they work out the right answer, spot-the-difference challenges, what’s-the-object-and-how-much-does-it-cost games, word searches: anything that doesn’t feel like school! But we’ve always had the key messages in mind, about using home energy and water more efficiently to reduce costs. We’ve looked at Unflushables and Energy Monsters. We’ve covered safety with appliances and running costs. We’ve explored energy-saving tips and ways of reducing condensation. And thanks to the generosity of funders, we’ve been able to leave each young carer with a ‘resilience pack’ to help them put the advice into practice. Many young carers in the south of England are now the proud owners of water-reducing shower heads, emergency power cut glow torches, thermo cards, shower timers and safety booklets.
Equally importantly, each young carer has taken away information about Priority Services they can access from their local distribution network and water company.
Our current project ends in March 2020. By then we hope to have given advice to over 150 young carers and helped to make life a little easier for over 150 households. We’d love to do more. But it’s a start!