Lotto cash boost to help Fife Young Carers

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Eighteen-year-old Lyndsey Bain is delighted to hear that a huge cash injection from the Big Lottery will give young carers in Fife extra support.

Lyndsey is just one of an estimated 5000 young carers across the Kingdom who will benefit from over half a million pounds in lottery funding.

Fife Young Carers - (from left) Lyndsey Bain, Jake Leitch and Samara King with manager Roy MacGregor. Pic: FPA

Fife Young Carers - (from left) Lyndsey Bain, Jake Leitch and Samara King with manager Roy MacGregor. Pic: FPA

She looks after her dad and also helps to care for her baby brother.

The Madras College pupil said: “It’s fantastic to hear that young carers and young adult carers in Fife will be getting extra support.

“I know from my own experience the massive difference it makes to young people like me who look after someone in their family.”

The lottery money is recognising the challenges facing young Fifers who are struggling to meet the demands of their school work as well as caring for a family member.

Thanks to this new funding, we will be able to identify even more young carers who are out there struggling – and don’t know about the work we do – to help give them a better future

Roy MacGregor, manager at Fife Young Carers

They are supported by Fife Young Carers – a registered charity which has been running locally for the past 20 years.

Now, thanks to the funding boost, the Lochgelly-based organisation can extend its support to youngsters in primary and secondary schools, giving them the skills and confidence to manage their schoolwork better along with the demands of their caring role.

It will also help them to make a smoother transition from school to further education, training or employment.

A young carer is a child or young person under the age of 25 whose life has been affected by looking after a family member who may have: a long-term illness, mental ill health, a physical or learning disability or problems with drugs or 
alcohol misuse.

From a young age, carers are faced with adult responsibilities which not only include caring for the affected family member and helping them to wash and dress, but also: looking after young siblings, managing money, paying bills, administering medication/injections as well as providing emotional support for their loved ones.

This is on top of doing domestic chores such as cleaning, cooking and shopping.

Roy MacGregor, manager at Fife Young Carers, said: “We support young carers from the age of eight to 25, although we do get referrals for carers younger than that.

“Their roles can vary, but they are often unseen and unrecognised in the support they give family members and, in some instances, these responsibilities can take a heavy toll.

“Although there is a steady increase in young people receiving help, we are still only aware of a small percentage of young carers and young adult carers who need support.

“But, thanks to this new funding, we will be able to identify even more young carers who are out there struggling – and don’t know about the work we do – to help give them a better future.”

Roy said the £531,721 from the Big Lottery’s Investing in Communities scheme is funding salaries, over five years, for a part-time schools support worker (Jodie Burn) and a full-time young adult carers worker (Lucy Brogan) – the funding also increases the hours of the current school worker (Dawn Murray) who is also part-time. There is also other funding included to support the work Fife Young Carers are doing.

The new staff, who have been in post since the start of last month, will work in primary and secondary schools throughout the region offering a range of advice in lunchtime and drop-in sessions and after school, one-on-one meetings and 
group work.

The workers will also focus on the career development of young carers – what their plans are for further education or employment and how they can be supported in their roles as carers.

Roy continued: “By providing increased specialist support in schools and new resources for young carers who are leaving school and going into further education or work, we are aiming to raise awareness with school staff of the issues they face – as well as raising awareness among the young person’s peers to give them a better understanding of what it’s like to be a young carer – so they can be better supported to develop skills and opportunities to improve their life chances.”

He added: “Young carers are a joy to work with. Young people are often portrayed negatively but these young carers are very responsible and are more understanding of other people’s situations and difficulties. We are very thankful for what they do.”

Case studies - Young Fife Carers

Lyndsey Bain (18) became a young carer at the age of 15 after her dad suffered complications during a surgical operation and had a stroke, which left him paralysed down his left hand side. Lyndsey and her family were living in England at the time and she was studying for her A-levels. They ended up moving back to Scotland. She said: “It was difficult at the time because we were just getting used to being an extended family with a new baby. I felt isolated and didn’t have a lot of free time, as my dad was needing 24-hour care, so I was busy either trying to help him or helping my mum look after my baby brother. My A level results weren’t good and, since I came up here, I have had to go back a year at school. I found out about Fife Young Carers and I’m grateful for the support I have had. It’s good to know there are others like you who are in the same boat.”

Samara King is 16 years old and has been a young carer for as long as she can remember. She looks after her mum, who has ME and fibromyalgia, as well as other conditions. Samara said: “I have been looking after my mum since I was around seven or eight. I was cooking all the meals and cleaning and if my mum was going out anywhere myself or my little sister would need to go with her as she was in an electric wheelchair. I have managed OK with my exams, as I have been able to go into school on study days. I wasn’t really able to socialise until about a year ago. I can’t always go out in case I am needed at home.” But thanks to help from Fife Young Carers, Samara’s self-confidence has increased and she has become more involved with the charity. Not only is Samara chairman of a Fife Young Carers Focus Group, but she recently raised £2500 – with some of the funding going to Fife Young Carers – by having her head shaved and donating it to the Little Princess Trust, which provides real hair wigs to boys and girls who have lost their own hair through cancer treatment.

Jake Leitch is 17 years old and has been looking after his mum since 2008. She had suffered multiple strokes, is diabetic and has rheumatoid arthritis. He said: “I help my mum with everyday chores like cooking, cleaning and housework, and sometimes I help her to get dressed. I also give her her medication and set up her injections. At the beginning, it was really difficult and you grow up very quickly as a result. I found out about Fife Young Carers when my mum was in Cameron Hospital having rehab. I go to a local support group, where I have met other young carers and it’s been helpful to be able to share your problems. I also have my own support worker who I can talk to. There is a good support network there and I have learned a lot of different skills, including coping mechanisms. Having the help has made a big difference.”