Covid came as a bolt out of the blue for us. One week we were running five groups a week and daily 1:1s, the following week all this had to stop under government guidelines. Change is often hard for us all but it is especially difficult for young carers, particularly when we had little/no time to help prepare them for it.
As staff and volunteers we took a belt and braces approach. One week after lockdown being announced we had started running virtual groups, making (at least) weekly phone calls to every service user, and had set up a private Facebook page to allow our youngsters to engage socially with one another. We also provided “challenge” activities and respite materials to help provide some form or time out from their caring role. We made it very clear to the young carers that we were finding this “virtual” way of working just as challenging as they were. We were so impressed and proud of how quickly our service users adapted and engaged with us. It was often us as staff/volunteers that had a disaster or malfunction with the computer etc not the young carers, much to their delight!
We have seen a significant increase in the need for crisis support during the pandemic. This has been for several reasons, including:
- Family/friends no longer being able to help with the caring role, resulting in our service users’ caring role increasing significantly.
- Different and increased pressures being placed on families, in some instances resulting in family breakdowns.
- Increase in instances of domestic violence within the home.
- Significant concerns around family finances and how they are going to manage/cope.
Mental health and general wellbeing remain a concern for young carers. With services still reduced and family/friends not being unable to visit, a large number remain very isolated with high caring roles. Education also remains a concern, with a number of our service users feeling unable to attend school due to the worry of something happening to their family member while they are out all day or the risk of them catching Covid.
Finally, adequate nutrition was and remains an issue. Unfortunately, our local food bank explained that they would not be able to meet the needs of our families. We therefore decided to set up our own food hamper service for the families in need. Families receive fortnightly provisions which include dried goods, fresh foods including fruit, vegetables and meat, toiletries and pet food. We also provide additional seasonal items such as Halloween sweets and advent calendars.
The longer the pandemic goes on and the longer we have such tight restrictions the more difficult it becomes financially for the service, and cutting our services would be of significant detriment to our youngsters. Without your continued support we would not have been able to set up our food hampers and financially would be in an even more difficult situation than we already are. The young carers want to ensure that you know they are genuinely grateful for all the support you give and they cannot express the difference it makes to them knowing that people want to help them.