Gloucestershire Young Carers held their Annual Conference at the Hatton Court Hotel, Gloucester on February 18th. Thank you on behalf of staff and the young carers and partners involved for making our event such a success.
Whether you attended our event or not, we hope you will find the following resources useful. Please share with your colleagues so we can continue to encourage an improved approach to supporting young carers in Gloucestershire.
Download the Powerpoint presentations from the conference:
Read Donna and Libby’s story:
Donna is recovering from an addiction.
She has been an alcoholic since 2007 although she would admit that alcohol has played a key role in her life for as long as she can remember. But 2007 was the year where her life hit an insurmountable crisis and she swiftly became dependant not just on alcohol but on cocaine too.
The impact of substance misuse on her own life, her career, on the lives of her three children and her relationship with her husband were not enough to bring Donna to the point at which she could begin to heal. That point came in August 2015 when she was rushed to hospital and almost died.
Now she is in recovery and she says she and her 15-year-old daughter Libby have survived only because of the support they have received from not just friends and family but the many organisations and people working with the family.
Support is everything, says Donna.
Donna’s story is similar to that of many people who fall into substance misuse – it is a story that begins with unimaginably difficult events or tragedies. But in order to come to rely upon drink or drugs to deal with these events, says Donna, you must be someone who is susceptible to addiction.
Following a car crash in which seven people died, including two close members of her family, Donna swiftly sank into alcohol and cocaine.
She says: “I turned to cocaine. I didn’t care. I didn’t want to have to think. I got in with people who dealt drugs and whose lives also focused around alcohol. I didn’t see drinking as a social activity – it was my medication. I reached a point where I couldn’t go out of the door without the help of a drink.”
18 months after that fateful car crash Donna faced yet another crisis when her husband began experiencing ill health and, only after months of investigations, was diagnosed with a rare blood condition. The challenges just kept coming.
The family kept their issues behind closed doors for many years until the pressure became too much and, after a frightening time where one of the older children ran away leading to a police search, Libby opened up to a teacher at school.
Libby says: “I hadn’t spoken to anyone. I had never known whether I could trust people or whether they would tell social services and I would be taken away from my mum.”
But social services didn’t split the family up. Libby was referred to Gloucestershire Young Carers and Donna was referred to Turning Point to help with her addiction and the family survived – with help.
Libby says: “It was good to know there was someone there to talk to at Gloucestershire Young Carers. I really benefited from the respite breaks too. I was always carrying two feelings around – that I would like to run away but that I couldn’t possibly run away from my mum. Respite breaks allowed me to get away for a while and then go home again.”
Libby also received a lot of support from the youth club she was attending. There she could escape into music or talk to friends.
Donna says: “I was just grateful she was getting support. When you are drinking you aren’t aware you have a problem or that you are causing a problem to your family.”
Eventually Donna hit her lowest point. She says: “I had become ill. I was so ill that I could barely walk. To put weight on my feet just hurt so much. All my blood tests were coming back red. I had too much cholesterol in my blood and my liver wasn’t functioning properly. I had ballooned and I was experiencing bruising all over my body. At this point I was drinking 145 units a week and that had been reduced from the 350 units I had been drinking. I finally collapsed and ended up in hospital. The consultant told me I was lucky not to have died. Just a week or so before that I had walked into Turning Point and told them I was ready to detox.
“Detox will never work unless a person is really ready for it. And to be ready you have to be at your lowest, pitiful, emotionally dependant point.”
Donna stressed that there isn’t a ‘type of person’ who becomes addicted to drink or drugs. She says: “I have sat in support meetings with all types of people – from a caterer to a headteacher’s wife. There is always a reason that someone turns to drink but you really need an addictive personality for it to take over your life.”
She added: “I am 41 and I have only just really started living my life. I wouldn’t have had that opportunity without the charities and people such as GPs and teachers who have supported me and my family.”
Visit our resources section for useful information to help you more efficiently support young carers.
Come back soon to this page for videos and further uploads relating to our conference.