This Christmas will be very different for 13-year-old Sophie. Unlike other years, she is not thinking about what presents she’ll receive. She isn’t excited about the Christmas dinner.
Things have never been the same since Sophie’s mum Jackie was involved in a car accident on her way home from work last August. She lost her right leg and this has had a big impact on her mobility and a knock-on effect on her mental wellbeing. Sophie is now the main carer for her mother in the evenings and at weekends when her father, Tom, is at work as a taxi driver.
Like most young people, Sophie used to really love Christmas as a time to spend with her family and enjoy all of the festivities. But this year, with her father working an extra shift on Christmas Day, it will be down to Sophie to tidy the house, prepare the food, and look after her younger twin brothers, Billy and George. She told us:
Sometimes I feel like I’m the grown up. Mum finds it hard to cope and make decisions. Dad works so hard, we don’t see him like we used to. It’s up to me to make sure everyone is alright."
The effect of caring can cause stress and anxiety at any age, but this is especially true for young carers who are also dealing with adolescence and the outside pressure of school. Our research has shown that 45% of young carers have mental health issues, and over half of young carers have problems coping with their schoolwork, partly due to exhaustion and having to take time out to help at home. Sadly young carers are also more likely to be bullied.
With the help of Carers Trust, Sophie now has access to a local support group for other young carers like her. She’s found that being able to talk to people in similar situations and make new friends who understand the pressure she’s under, has helped her feel more able to cope:
I now have something to look forward to every other week at the Carers’ Centre. I have a couple of friends now - Kirsty and Lou. They know what it’s like being a carer; I don’t need to pretend with them."
Sophie is just one of many thousands of carers who are caring for over 50 hours every week. A gift from you today could help us be there for more of them, enabling them to enjoy Christmas time and look forward to the New Year.
Sophie’s story has been adapted slightly and her name and image have been changed to protect her identity, but it is representative of many young carers that we support in the UK.