West Dereham young carer welcomes changes in the law

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Young carers will be able to get more help and support from the authorities following a change in the law.

Catherine Farnham, 20, of West Dereham, is one of the estimated 12,000 carers in Norfolk who look after a family member along with working towards their education.

For 10 years, Catherine has looked after her mum Patricia, who has severe arthritis and deafness as well as helping her father Keith, who has fought cancer and is a diabetic.

Now Catherine and others like her will finally have the same rights as adult carers to receive an extra helping hand.

The introduction of the Children and Families Act 2014 and the Care Act 2014 has given all young carers the right to an assessment of their needs, regardless of who they care for and how often.

Groups such as Norfolk Carers Support have been campaigning for this vital change.

Catherine, who is studying fashion at the College of Wet Anglia, said: “I love looking after my mum and wouldn’t have it any other way.

“The assessments are really important as we are doing the same job as adults carers but at the same time we have added pressure with education, friends and puberty.

“They also come up to a crucial road of what they are going to do in the future. Most people who don’t look after others know what they are going to do. But young carers have added pressure. The assessments will to know what help is available.

“It would be nice to know where I can get more help from. It not about receiving things, we don’t want things like money but to know someone is there.”

Catherine began to help her mum while she was still at primary school. While at secondary school, her father was diagnosed with bowel cancer.

When she moved on to study A-levels, Catherine’s grandmother began to suffer from dementia and relied on the youngster.

Catherine said: “You get into a routine but it would have been beneficial if there had been someone to talk to who could suggest different things.”

The future is looking bright for Catherine, who is now receiving more help. She is applying to universities along with an apprenticeship with a firm in Ely.

Norfolk Carers under 25s services manager John Lee says the new assessments will look at whether the young carers role is excessive or inappropriate.

The new assessments will also look at the young carers needs separate from the person they look after.

A recent survey showed 49 per cent of young adult carers reported that their physical health was “just okay” or “poor” and 51 per cent reported having their own mental health problem.

He said: “Some things in life are complicated such as illness, disease and addiction but others are fundamentally simple – young carers are telling us that they need more support. Too many are reaching crisis point and it impacts both their own health and subsequently their education”

Norfolk Carers Support is encouraging the public and professionals to help identify Young Carers and work with them to gain more support.

Further details of the changes can be found at www.norfolkcarerssupport.org