January 2018

Young Carer Looks to the Future

Young carer looks to a positive future on Young Carers Awareness Day

Throughout her life, Kerry McKenzie has cared for her brother. She washes him, dresses him, helps him get ready – nothing is too much trouble.

What makes Kerry’s case unusual is that her brother is older than she is – Aidan is 18 months her senior – and he is severely autistic. Until recently, Aidan was incontinent, he has non-verbal communication and needs constant help.

Like many young carers, Kerry, 19, from Westbury, didn’t even know she was a carer until she was 12– it took a visit from social services to point this out.

“Looking after Aidan and helping out is just normal for me. Looking after him is like looking after a toddler,” says Kerry. “When social services became involved with our family, my Mum was working shifts and my older brother, Dan, and I were helping to look after Aidan, but a lot of it fell to me.”

Kerry was signposted to Youth Action Wiltshire’s Young Carers Service who are working in partnership with CSW to provide respite, breaks and activities for young carers.

“I wasn’t even sure I wanted to be assessed by them at first, but they came along, asked lots of questions, and told me I was a carer. That was really weird, because to me it was just something I had always done and I never at any stage resented it.”

Being a young carer can have a big impact on the things that important to growing up. It can affect a young person’s health, social life and self-confidence. Many struggle to juggle their education and caring, with 1 in 20 missing school because of their caring role. In a survey, 39% said that nobody in their school was aware of their caring role. Young Carers Awareness Day is all about raising awareness of the 700,000 young carers here in the UK.

That interception from Wiltshire Young Carers Service changed Kerry’s life. She began to participate in the many activities they run, importantly providing transport so she could get to and from. Kerry had a go at everything from cooking and conservation, to residential breaks. This all gave her time to develop herself as a person, gave her respite from her caring role, and provided the opportunity to meet other young people in a similar position.

“That was the coolest part of all, to find there was an organisation which really valued caring and brought young carers together.”

Kerry is now studying Health and Social Care at Wiltshire College and his hoping to go to University in September.

If your school, organisation or workplace would like to support Young Carers Awareness Day, Carers Trust has a range of materials you can use:

And Kerry’s message for other young carers on Young Carers Awareness Day?

“Everything works itself out, and you can always make something positive out of a negative.”