Fun-filled days awaiting young carers as donations fund trips

YOUNG carers across the region are looking forward to fun-filled days away after generous Yorkshire Post readers raised more than £16,000.

The funds from our Give Young Carers A Break appeal have now been shared between services across Yorkshire where they will be put towards activities and trips.

The cash has been divided between children’s charity Barnardo’s groups in Doncaster, Hull, Leeds and Bradford as well as independent charities Sheffield Young Carers, Harrogate-based Carers’ Resource and York Young Carers.

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Between them they support some of the estimated 85,000 children who look after a sick or disabled loved one in the region, helping with everything from housework to medical care.

Barnardo’s Doncaster service plans to use its share of the cash to pay for an action-packed overnight stay at Hatfield outdoor activity centre for around 12 of the youngsters it works with.

Manager Jane Whaley said: “We try to put one on every year and we choose those young carers who are most in need of a break.

“The aim of this short time away is to build on their confidence and to help them with their social skills, so there are water-based and other activities that are all about working together and it’s lots and lots of fun.

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“In the evening we take them to the cinema and out to a restaurant for a meal, so they are getting a real experience of what some other young people may take for granted.”

Some of the cash may also go towards the service’s annual seaside trip to Skegness for young carers and their families in the summer holidays.

“For a lot of families, it is the first time in a long time that they have been able to go out together because our staff are there to help and support with things like transport,” Ms Whaley added.

“When they’re at the coast they can go off and do their own thing knowing they have got us nearby on our mobile phones if they need anything.

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“It’s a lovely day and it’s really important that they build those happy memories together.”

The charity’s Willow young carers service in Leeds said it would be asking the youngsters it works with to suggest how they would like to see the cash spent.

Manager Sylvia Shatwell said: “We promote participation and the voice of the young person so we’d like to practise what we preach.”

One idea being discussed for the cash is to put on film-making workshops, which children who use the service – based at the Leeds Media Centre in Chapeltown – have enjoyed taking part in before.

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“We try to give them interesting and slightly different experiences that will stretch them a little bit as well as giving them a break from their caring role,” Ms Shatwell said.

“We try to create memories for them that they can look back on and really enjoy, confidence-building, learning about new things and visiting new places and maybe sparking an interest in something they haven’t done before.

“One of the biggest benefits is being with other young people.

“I am constantly amazed by the strength of the friendships that they form. They really keep in touch outside the service and that’s really strong support for them which is sustainable.”

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She added: “It’s really important when you are young to have that peer support and to not feel different.”

Carers Resource said it hoped to use its share of the funding for a summer trip to London after a suggestion by its youth club members.

Service manager Helen Prince said: “Quite a few of them have never been and with London 2012 and all the stuff that went on last summer it’s a bit of a destination.

“They will certainly be excited about it – the team is.”

Inspirational young carers from across the region shared their stories over the course of the appeal, helping to highlight the vital role they and others like them play in looking after relatives with a disability, illness, mental health problem or drug or alcohol issues.

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The youngest was six-year-old Jack Mentlak, from Leeds, who helps to look after his grandmother Jackie, 60, who has battled cancer, suffered a number of strokes and has severe arthritis.

Others included 11-year-old David Nesbitt, who cares for his disabled father Allan in Doncaster; Harrogate sisters Lucy and Alice Deyermond, aged 12 and 15, who look after their brother Sam, who has a developmental disorder; and 12-year-old Ellie Winstanley, from Hull, whose mother has suffered from depression.

Hundreds of people moved by their plight cast bids in an online auction of exclusive goods and money-can’t-buy experiences kindly offered by Yorkshire businesses as part of the appeal, with money also rolling in through cash donations.

The campaign was sponsored by R&R Ice Cream and supported by the Yorkshire Community Foundation network and Harrogate-based PR agency Cicada Communications.