A leading figure at West Norfolk Young Carers has praised the our school's caring community for the work its members are doing during lockdown.
Sara Nurse is children and families’ lead at the charity, which provides support for young people who have caring responsibilities. Ordinarily, there would be fortnightly meetings at school for young carers, but like so many other aspects of life in lockdown, its work has become digital – but no less important.
“St Clement’s is absolutely amazing in the way it supports young carers,” she said. “There have been 26 pupils identified as being carers, of whom about 15 have chosen to get involved with us, and the school has a carer-friendly tick award from the Caring Together group, as well as a named member of staff who is the carers’ lead, and does a lot in school to promote awareness of care work.”
One young carer is Year Seven pupil Robyn Webster, whose first year in secondary school has been hugely disrupted by the pandemic, and who is now juggling home schooling with looking after her 15-year-old brother, who has learning disabilities and a range of medical issues.
Described by her father as “a pair of eyes in the back of our heads” for the way she helps her parents with care, Robyn said the pandemic had made life even more demanding for young carers.
“Usually my brother is at school every day, but now he’s not, there’s a lot more care to be done at home, making it harder to find time for other things,” she said.
“Knowing West Norfolk Young Carers are around really helps,” she added. “We knew about them before we joined the school, and knowing that they would be there for support has been great.
"Obviously at the moment things are limited, so we’re having to do a lot of activities online, but in normal times they do group activities like cinema trips and fun stuff that we can do together, without family, as well as providing support with the caring side of things. I can’t wait to get back to school, though, as I really miss seeing people.”
Sara Nurse said that for many young carers, school was a release and a respite from caring, which meant lockdown was hitting them extra hard.
“Life has become a lot more difficult for them,” she said. “They have so much to deal with and it can be heartbreaking hearing some of their stories.
“Other friends who aren’t carers can’t understand what young carers go through, which is why carer communities like the one at St Clement’s are so necessary.
"We do what we can for them by zoom, but it’s not the same as being in a room with people – they support each other so well, we can’t wait for them to be back at school.”
Year 11 student Charli Gibbs, who is in her GCSE year, helps look after her older brother, who has special needs, and a younger brother with ADHD.
“My parents run their own engineering firm which takes up a lot of time so I help out with general duties around the house, and looking after my brothers,” she said.
“My younger brother is at school during the day, and sometimes my older brother goes off with mum and dad to do his work, so it doesn’t really impact on the school day too much, but there’s still a lot of extra work that needs doing.
“We used to have carers’ meetings where we can chat and play games and just relax a bit together. They also help with practical things, and I’m seeing if they can help get a laptop for my brother so he doesn’t have to borrow mum’s.
“It can be tricky sometimes, trying to strike the balance, but teachers are understanding. I just want to get back to school with everyone else, though. It’s very strange not being able to see everyone.”