What is the role a young carer? It’s a simple enough question, but one, it seems, not many people can fully appreciate to answer.
Myths and misconceptions about what young carers do still prevail, and there’s a lack of understanding about the impact their caring responsibilities have on their life.
To be fair, many children and young people don’t even recognise themselves as a young carer, often thinking they are just helping out a loved one.
Jo Goodwin, a customer advisor at the Norwich and Peterborough (N&P) Building Society in Lynn, admits she didn’t realise the pressures faced by young carers until she volunteered with them as part of her branch’s work with West Norfolk Carers.
Today she has spoken of her experience with them, and urged people to support the Lynn News Somewhere for Me appeal, to help give young carers a life of their own.
Mrs Goodwin and colleague Jo Palmer, a customer consultant at the branch in New Conduit Street, spent a day with the young carers during a trip to Norwich’s Eaton Vale Activity Centre in the summer.
Mrs Goodwin said: “Spending time with them really opened my eyes.
“I had an idea of what a young carer was, but it wasn’t really like that at all.
“I was quite naive in a way and thought they would just be looking after parents with medical conditions like MS. And while some do, we actually found that the reason many of them had become a young carer was to do with their parents’ drug and substance abuse.”
“I got to hear about the affects it has on their childhood and the daily struggles they have to face,” she said.
“It made me think of my own childhood and how easy I had it, and of my own two children who have everything done for them. They haven’t a clue how hard it can be for other children their age.”
Mrs Goodwin said the work West Norfolk Carers does for its young carers across the borough was “amazing”.
“It’s such a fantastic charity, and the people who work with the young carers always go above and beyond what is expected of them and what they are paid to do.”
Since the volunteering experience, the N&P branch has also donated £250 to the charity to buy new toys and equipment for the young carers’ support groups.
The branch will also be inviting customers and shoppers to donate Christmas gifts to the young carers when it opens a gift donation point in store at the end of November.
And Mrs Goodwin said staff are also hoping to help out at the West Norfolk Carers Christmas party in December.
• To donate to the £10,000 Somewhere for Me appeal, just fill in and follow the instructions on the coupon.