Kieran talks about his involvement in the NHS England Young Carer Health Champion programme…
I’m Kieran. I’m a young carer within Gloucestershire Young Carers and also an NHS Health Champion. This is a Forum of other young adult carers across the nation who have come together as a group with the help of Kath Rooksby (NHS England lead for young carers) and her team to help other young carers get identified easier and to help doctors and schools to search for key signs of carers so they can be supported more easily.
I’ve not really had much experience with the NHS myself but have seen it impact on my family. We may not have had support but we were helped to understand what is wrong with my Dad and then being able to manage that.
I care for my mum, Stepdad and little brother. My mum has got epilepsy and kidney disease. My Stepdad has got agoraphobia and mental health issues and my little brother has got ADHD and has been classed as hyperactive.
I have physical conditions and mental ill health to cope with in my family. To be fair, I haven’t connected to any support in the NHS. Once we got given the first diagnosis we then supported ourselves. That works for us.
If there was a route we needed to take for more help then we would know where to go to get support for that.
Working with other young carers has helped me to formulate an idea of other people’s experiences. The NHS has got all the support any young carer might need – they can help them, the carer themselves, or point them in the direction of where they need to go to get that support. I think young carers know that but perhaps don’t know how to bring it up with their GP. I’m not sure why that is. I suppose I wouldn’t just go into my doctors and explain things unless I really had to.
When you normally make a doctors’ appointment it is because you’ve got an issue but I don’t necessarily think of tagging a carer issue on at the end of the appointment. I don’t think that crosses anyone’s mind – to open up to a GP like that.
If I were to talk to a GP I would say: keep an eye out for key signs of a possible carer and then break the ice by asking the question ‘is everything Ok at home, are you a carer?’
I never really looked into services such as the Children’s Society before working with Kath. We then found a resource on the internet that shows your local young carers group or charity, for example.
With Kath and the other health champions we decided to make a comic for secondary school children – one is going into year 7 the other year 11. The Year 11 is identified as a young carer, the year 7 isn’t and we then draw parallels. The identified young person talks to the unidentified one and they become friends and it goes from there.
In my case, I engaged with Gloucestershire Young Carers as a self-referral – my mum was looking through the internet and came across GYC and things kicked off from there.
It has been a bit of a rollercoaster since then. First it is a shock that there are more people out there like you. What I’ve seen of people who have just been identified or have not yet been identified is that they are quiet and timid until they come out more in a group. It can be overwhelming at first when you hear other people’s stories. You don’t see yourself as unusual and to hear someone else’s story it sometimes hits home. That first period of time with a group is when you are assessing your place.
It made me feel happy that there were people I could relate to at Gloucestershire Young Carers. We have the same background. Then I just felt accepted. That sometimes is different to other areas of my life such as school.