It's Carers Week this week, an annual campaign which aims to raise awareness of the challenges carers face and the contribution they make to families and communities throughout the UK.
A carer is somebody who looks after a family member or a loved one who has a disability, mental health issues or suffers from substance misuse. Being a carer isn't a choice, it just happens. A young carer isn't a superhero, we are normal people who just have to do more than others our own age.
I became a young adult carer when my mum had a heart attack which made an underlying illness dramatically worse. She suffers from fibromyalgia, which affects her mobility and memory and causes her to be in constant pain every day. As a result of her condition I have to help her with everyday tasks such as walking, cooking, cleaning and taking medication.
Carers Week is important because it helps us to raise more awareness for all carers, whatever age they are. It also helps young carers, like myself, who are not yet involved with Carers Trust to find the support and information that they may need. The theme of this year's Carers Week is building Carer Friendly Communities and it also helps members of the public to understand more about carers and the contribution they make to families across the UK.
According to a survey by the Carers Trust 80% of young carers carry out their caring role every day, with 50% helping to administer medicines to family members and 41% helping with personal care, such as washing and helping the person they care for to get dressed. This means that 82% of those questioned said they miss out on seeing friends, while 60% said they miss attending events and other activities.
I think one of the main things most young carers would ask for is someone to talk to, as caring for someone can often be lonely and difficult. At the Take the Lead project which I run at the Carers Trust Cambridgeshire, we teach young adult carers leadership skills so that when they go out into the world of work they feel more confident. The project also gives them a chance to make new friends and take part in a three-day residential where they are able to participate in a wide range of activities that they may not have had a chance to do before, such as canoeing and high ropes. This is a great way to face their fears and demonstrate the leadership and team skills that they have been learning.
Having friends that understand what you are going through is important when you are a young carer, but I also think that it is crucial that other people across the country understand what carers do, so that all of the 'hidden' young carers out there are able to get the support they need.
I feel that being chosen as one of this year's Queen's Young Leaders Award winners has helped me to raise more awareness for carers and has hopefully encouraged 'hidden' carers to ask for assistance. I want to raise awareness of the challenges carers face and to show other young people in a similar position to mine that they are not alone."
For more information about The Queen's Young Leaders visit http://www.queensyoungleaders.com/