Supporting young carers during lockdown

Friday 05 June 2020
Teenage girl with piercings

Since 1995, Action for Children’s ‘North Lanarkshire Young Carers’ project has supported young people with care responsibilities in the region

The service works with young people who provide care and support to family members who may have a range of needs, including disability and mental health. The project aims to help these young people by safeguarding their health and wellbeing, supporting them with education, training and employment and increasing their access to leisure and social opportunities.

Becky Stewart is a young person’s practitioner at the project and has been in post since June 2019. She talked to us about how the service continues to work with young carers across North Lanarkshire.

“The way we support young people has changed drastically,” she said.

“There are no outings and other than delivering parcels to families, there is less face-to-face support at the moment. We aren’t able to do the same amount of home visits and see what’s going on to the same level as before this. So that’s changed.”

With young carers assuming adult-like responsibilities in the home, a large part of the support delivered by North Lanarkshire Young Carers is to give young people a break from those responsibilities and to spend time with other people their age. Even though that is no longer something the project is able to do, it hasn’t stopped staff providing vital support to young carers.

“We were meant to be at a residential on 6 April, it was lovely weather, and a lot of the young carers were telling us they were gutted they couldn’t’ get away,” said Becky. “But they are all switched on and understand why we couldn’t go."

“I think we are doing really well with supporting young carers with resources we have,” she added. “We are doing lots of different things. Firstly, keeping regular contact with our dedicated case load. We spent time as a team working things out. Contact with the young people has been based on need so is often weekly but sometimes fortnightly. But they also know they can contact us whenever they need us, whether that’s calls or via zoom meetings.”

Quick emergency support for families

Like other projects, staff at North Lanarkshire Young Carers have applied to both our own Emergency Appeal Fund and the Scottish Government’s Wellbeing fund to provide quick emergency support to families. This has ranged from replacing white goods to helping families with bills and food for the house.

“The two funds have been fantastic help for families,” said Becky.

“Carla got a washing machine for a family, which was fitted during this time which was amazing...It was great to be able to get them help and get it to them so, so quickly.”

Becky has been heartened to see how well families are managing to cope and the young carers themselves. She’s also seen an increase in support being offered within towns and villages across North Lanarkshire, increasing a sense of community as everyone looks out for one another.

“I think the majority of our families dealing quite well with it,” she said.

From a young carers perspective, they have a lot of pressure to get tasks done, getting up early, doing tasks, going to school then home to do homework. A bit of pressure is off the young carers now that they don’t need to be out the door to get to school by nine.

Becky Stewart, Young person's practitioner

Becky said there’s a lot of local support now for families in the community such as food banks, and internet pages with support dealing with COVID.

"The staff team here have pulled together a document for families, so they are aware of the support that’s out there for them and know there is help if they need it.”

Asked what she misses most from a work perspective, Becky mentions the office and being able to see colleague but quickly points out the thing she misses the most is the regular group sessions with the young people at the project and families as regularly, something that’s key to the support and the success of the project.

“It’s hard to give support to kids who are struggling advice over phone and texts,” said Becky.

“Those regular face-to-face contacts are so important. Building that bond is vital. So, it’s much harder now. I’m finding it difficult. Feel a bit helpless sometimes as can’t give them what they are used to and what they need. It’s an adjustment and has been difficult. But the video meetings have been great in giving us more face-to-face.”

Our key workers are incredible people. They’re on the frontline of the coronavirus crisis – doing everything they can to make sure vulnerable children and families get the help they need. To the people we support a key worker is their extended family. They’re someone they can trust. Someone who really cares. And someone who knows exactly what to do in a crisis. Now – more than ever – this support really matters.