My life as a young carer – Charlie’s story

According to the last census, there are at least 195,000 young carers across the UK, though this is widely believed to be an underestimate. Recent research by the BBC reveals there could be as many as 800,000. These children  take on numerous tasks, which could include dressing and washing a parent, cleaning, cooking and looking after siblings.

We spoke to one young carer about his caring role and how Barnardo’s helped.

Meet Charlie 

Charlie is 12 and lives with his mum and his younger sister, Lily, aged 9. Every day Charlie does as many household chores as he can manage. He looks after his mum, who has a chronic back problem and he helps to look after his Lily too. Charlie just gets on with all the practical things he has to do each day to care for his mum and sister, but the thing that takes the biggest toll is the constant worry about his mum, when he’s at school. He often feels very sad and worried during the day and takes himself off to a quiet area to cry. He also struggles to complete homework at times, because of his caring responsibilities.

Helping mum around the house 

Charlie told us about the jobs he has to do to help his mum and to keep the house as tidy as he can manage. In the morning he helps both his mum and his little sister get up and dressed, all before he has his own breakfast. His mum worries about the house being messy so Charlie told us:

“If anything needs doing, I’ll try my best to do it. I’ll wash up the dishes and I try my best to keep my room tidy.”  

Worrying about mum when he’s at school 

Charlie says that he and his little sister go to school ‘most days’ but when he’s there he really struggles, because he worries about his mum and how she’s coping when he’s not there, which makes him feel very upset. He told us:

‘I usually just go the furthest part away from where anyone is and just cry’ 

Getting help from Barnardo’s 

Charlie gets help and support from a Barnardo’s Young Carers service, who works with between 80-100 young people at any one time across the county. He was put in touch with a key worker, Lauren, who meets with him regularly to talk through how he is feeling. Most of the work they do involves 1-2-1 talking sessions. It has made a huge difference to Charlie’s life. Charlie says that:

‘It makes me feel 10 million times better, when I’ve seen her.’ He describes Lauren as ‘a friend more than anything’ and says that ‘Just having someone to talk to really helps.’ 

Charlie is optimistic about the future 

Charlie loves dinosaurs and wants to be a palaeontologist, when he grows up. He also thinks that in the future he will still look after his mum.

How Barnardo’s made Christmas magical 

Christmas should be a time for celebration, but for young carers, the hard work never stops – even at Christmas. Young carers can wake up on Christmas morning with little to look forward to. But Barnardo’s are doing their best to make sure no young carer misses out on the magic of Christmas. Last year, Charlie and his family were given donated Christmas goodies from the Barnardo’s team. They got a Christmas survival box, including decorations, crackers and some luxury food items.

If you want to help make Christmas magical for young carers, like Charlie, who work so hard during the year to selflessly care for a family member then you can. Find out how to donate here.