A society is judged by how it looks after its most in need, especially in difficult times. In this third national lockdown, the call for us to rally around young carers has never been more urgent.
Managing medication, juggling the family finances and helping a relative get dressed in the morning: these are just some of the tasks a young carer can expect to perform every day. Right now there are 700,000 children (the equivalent of 2 in every classroom) under the radar, managing these tasks and caring for a loved one.
At the start of the first lockdown in March 2020 LUNG, The Lowry and Gaddum (who support young carers in Salford) relaunched The Who Cares Campaign. We wrote an open letter to Matt Hancock and asked for some assurance that the needs of young carers would be met during this long period of isolation. We asked about food poverty, additional support in school, the medical needs of the person who is being cared for and the identification of hidden young carers. We are yet to receive a reply.
Thankfully, since then, the media has stopped trotting out the myth that Coronavirus is the great equaliser. We now all know the virus has only deepened pre-existing societal divides and young carers have borne the brunt of the pandemic in so many ways. The cancellation of key operations, the spike in domestic violence and the rise of alcoholism is leaving its mark on children.
As we’ve worked on the Who Cares Campaign over the last 9 months, I have been humbled by those who have rallied around us to support these young people. Doctors and GPs from Salford Primary Care Together have made education resources and run workshops with young carers on how to safely care for a loved one. Theatres and young carer services across the UK have collaborated with LUNG’s Engagement Manager (Gitika Buttoo) to give young carers a weekly creative online space to express themselves. Teachers, academics and chief executives have joined a policy group to help us find tangible ways to improve services for these young people. I am looking forward to announcing this stellar team later on in the year.
For me, the biggest privilege has been getting to work with some incredible young carers. I have been blown away by the strength and courage of these young carers as they advocate for themselves and their families. Whether it’s BBC News, ITV, Channel 5, Big Issue, Manchester Evening News – you name, these young carers have fearlessly stood up and done it.
As we look into the abyss 2021, I do genuinely believe there is hope. Right now there is a generation of young carers who are standing up and fighting for better rights. They aren’t waiting for change, they are looking for grabbing it and seizing it. On Young Carers Action Day this March, we will be launching a series of pledges aimed at improving services for young carers across the UK.
Young carers should not have to do this alone. If it takes a village to raise a child, it also takes a village to support a child in need. Whether you are a teacher, pharmacist, friend, neighbour – we need to stand shoulder to shoulder with our young carers.
Today we are proud to launch #YCTakeover. Every day from now until the end of lockdown we will be advocating and lobbying for the rights of young carers. If YOU would like to get involved and see what you can do to support our hidden heroes, follow this link!
As we look ahead to 2021, now is the time to renew our efforts to stand up and speak out for young carers across the UK. Are you with us?
Matt Woodhead, Co-Artistic Director, LUNG.