Jane Graham: It’s time to give child carers helping hand
Research conducted by BBC News this week revealed there could be 700,000 children acting as carers for family members in the UK, more than four times the previous estimate.
This could mean that around 8% of school-children are shouldering the kind of responsibilities many of us dread having to consider as adults.
Young carers don’t grab many headlines in the UK but they are among the most admirable people in the country, and the details of some of their lives are heartbreaking and just frankly unpalatable.
I used to produce an agony aunt show for Radio 1, and through that I became aware of the legion of uncomplaining children as young as 10 who were not only doing most of the domestic chores in their household, but also coping with a role reversal which saw the parents entirely reliant on the strength and self-sacrificing goodwill of their offspring.
The sparky-bright 12-year-old I spoke to who bathed her mother, helped her to the toilet and ensured she took the right medicine every day wasn’t an exception — there were so many like her.
For her the weightless fun of childhood freedom was just something she saw her friends enjoying.
And when things got tough, who did she — her mother’s protector — have to lean on? “No one right now,” I will always remember her saying.
There is a charity in Northern Ireland helping young carers, so if you’re interested in supporting these unsung heroes in any way, then check out www.crossroadscare.co.uk