Jamaal Otieno Image Carers in Bedfordshire

Carers in Bedfordshire and Bedford Borough Council have teamed up to give young carers a voice through a podcast series called Welcome To My World, which has launched today (16 March 2021) for National Young Carers Action Day.

Seven young carers from Bedford took part in recording the podcasts, which will be available on Spotify. They cover a different topic in each one, the first focusing on their feelings and emotions.

Young carer Jamaal Otieno, who is a Peer Mentor with Carers in Bedfordshire and he also ran for Youth Parliament earlier in the year, took part in the series. The 16-year-old said:

“The podcasts are a chance for people to hear about our experiences and they raise awareness of the issues and challenges we face on a day-to-day basis.

“It was really great to talk and bounce ideas off each other, which makes the conversation flow really nicely. We were also involved in creating the artwork for the podcast and the write up for each one.”

Jamaal spent up to 60 hours a week caring for his younger brother during lockdown, who has ADHD and autism. Jamaal’s research into young carers found that they miss out on around eight hours a week in terms of sleep and school work. There is also time lost for socialising and personal wellbeing. He said:

“Caring can be difficult, as it does take its toll on you and you have to be aware of your own mental health.”

Jamaal is involved in Young Carers National Voice. This brings members from some of the different caring organisations from around the UK together. They take their experiences and ideas and merge them into a campaign to focus on throughout the year.

“This year’s campaign focuses on support for carers in education and our petition has gone live to try to make it law in schools to support young carers. My name is on the petition, as I am one of the leads.

“Schools have to have SEND structures in place and ensure there are no barriers to learning. I think it’s shocking there’s nothing in schools to help young carers. The Carers Trust estimate unpaid care saves the state £132bn a year.

“It’s a staggering amount, especially when you think the budget for the Department of Health and Social Care is £114bn – £18bn less a year than the amount unpaid care saves the Government.

“I have also been working with Carers in Bedfordshire on a project where schools can gain an award for the work they carry out in helping young carers. This is going to be launched soon, once schools ease into having pupils back in the classroom after lockdown.

“It would be good for each school to have a teacher young carers could go to, who is aware of the issues we face and who has spoken to young carer organisations. They should be educated to learn about young carer experiences and understand how life can be different.

“A dedicated lead would be great for young carers to know there was a person they can go to, to seek support, rather than trying to find someone to ask for help. When help is offered its easier to access and removes barriers. A lead in schools would also be someone young carers could build a relationship with and build trust with.”

Bedford Bridge to be turned purple

Carers in Bedfordshire and Bedford Borough Council are showing their support for Young Carers Action Day by lighting up the town bridge purple, the official colour of the campaign.

The charity is also encouraging businesses, young carers, schools and members of the public to wear purple tomorrow and donate to helping Carers in Bedfordshire carry out the support they provide to young carers.

The charity is part funded by Bedford Borough council and provides one-to-one support, training, workshops, clubs, young carer breaks, closed social media groups and peer mentoring.

The charity is also sending craft packs, courtesy of the Carers Trust, to all their young carers registered with them, so they can support the national day of action.

There are an estimated 700,000 young carers in the United Kingdom. They are classed as children or young people under 18, who care for someone who has a disability, illness, mental health condition, learning difficulties, sensory impairment, HIV/AIDS or substance misuse.

Young Carers may experience isolation, difficulties coping at home, problems at school, lack of social experiences and often need information and advice on the illness or disability their family member may have.

To find out further information about how Carers in Bedfordshire supports young carers visit Being a Young Carer, where you can also find a link to an interview with Jamaal. He talks in-depth about life as a young carer. The link to the podcast series can also be found on the website.