External support crucial for young adult carers to develop educational paths

7 June 2016

My name is Daisy, I’m 18 years old. I live in Rugby and I care for my mum who has been diagnosed with several mental health conditions and now is also suffering from physical disabilities. My first memory of caring for my mum was at 3 years old, when I had an accident with boiling water, while making her a cup of tea. 

When I started to attend primary school I noticed small differences between myself and the other children, for example my mum wouldn’t attend certain events due to her anxiety. Other children would not have to help make dinner, clean and other general help around the house. 

However, when I moved into secondary school these differences became larger. I noticed that my attendance was going down very fast as my caring role increased massively. My duties expanded to include personal care, medication, financial matters. When I reached Year 9, I often felt low from having to juggle my personal life, caring and education. I finally opened up to a teacher after she noticed differences between me and my fellow pupils. Through this I was put in touch with Warwickshire Young Carers Project. 

As my GCSEs approached my caring role was my priority, which meant that my attendance was very low at school. I could only revise when my mum was asleep, this would normally be around 1am-2am. However I was able to gain 11 GCSEs over C grade. 

I was accepted into 6th form, but my caring and educational pattern stayed the same. In my second year I was diagnosed with meningitis due to the stress of juggling everything, this then went on to affect every part of my life. However, thanks to the support I received at the time from Warwickshire Young Carers Project I was able to gain some A-Levels. Through the project I also gained other qualifications which helped build my confidence and self-esteem. I particularly benefited from Sport Leaders, Young Leaders, and Peer Mentoring. I used my collective experiences from these programmes to successfully apply for a Youth Development Officer post at Hill Street Youth and Community Centre, and I have now been in post for nearly a year.

When I was studying for my A-Levels I applied to and was accepted at Edinburgh University. I was really pleased and excited, but I couldn’t take up the offer as there were no services available in Warwickshire to replace the vital care I provided to my mum. To start with I was happy with my decision, but when all of my friends left to attend University I realised the full impact of my decision and that I was missing out on an excellent opportunity. 

In my existing job at the Youth and Community Centre, my employer fully understands my caring role and has helped me develop my educational path, for example by allowing and supporting me to access the Open University (studying Social Sciences), NVQ (Children’s Workforce) and Youth Work Training (Introduction & ABC Level 2). 

Looking to the future and from the experience that I have gained so far I would like the opportunity to work with young adults who have experienced Child Sexual Exploitation.  Whilst I have felt that my life has been affected massively by being a carer, I am thankful for the position that I am in and the help and support I have received, especially from Warwickshire Young Carers Project and Hill Street Youth and Community Centre. I expect to continue to face serious challenges in my caring role, and this highlights the long term implications of being a carer.