ACROSS the UK an estimated 290,000 young people aged 18-25 are caring for their relatives.
The exact figure for the Borders is unknown, but with our high proportion of elderly people and an acknowledged surge in conditions such as dementia, the number of young carers is believed to be above the national average.
And not only are the roles of these dedicated youngsters often unrecorded, but their contribution to the Borders was described this week as “absolutely critical” by Fiona Morrison, strategic development manager of the Princess Royal Trust (PRT) which operates from the Borders Carers Centre in Galashiels.
Ms Morrison was commenting after her voluntary organisation announced the launch of the Young Adult Carers Service.
A key aspiration of the new service will be to ensure that carers aged 18 to 25 are not disadvantaged in terms of educational and employment opportunities.
“These wonderful youngsters require special consideration from potential employers in terms of working hours,” said Ms Morrison. “At present, the young carer finds it exceedingly difficult to commit to earned work or college courses because of their commitments at home.
“We will deliver a bespoke, dedicated service which provides age-specific support and allows these young carers to focus on other big issues in their lives, such as employment, education and housing, and hopefully ease feelings of isolation and disadvantage.”
The initiative will be run by Andrea Denholm from Innerleithen who has taken the role of part-time co-ordinator.
It is a happy return to PRT for Andrea who left the organisation last March when it lost the contract to provide services to 120 carers aged eight to 18 to rival body Action for Children.
“Andrea was a tremendous asset and is an excellent choice to take over the new service,” said Ms Morrison.
Mrs Denholm said one of the project’s key activities would be advocacy for young carers.
She told us: “This involves accompanying youngsters to meet college staff, employers and other agencies to explain their specific needs. Hopefully these demands will be fully understood and taken on board.
“In addition, we will offer every young carer an assessment, involving other family members, of their caring role and help them and the people they care for access the health and social care support they deserve, thus reducing the caring burden.
“We will offer ongoing support and advice to young adult carers to further their personal development, sourcing additional funding to help them for training and driving lessons. We will also give them the chance to meet their peers for mutual support and time out.”
If you are a young adult carer or know someone who is, please contact Andrea at the carers centre (Brewerybrig, Low Buckholmside, Galashiels, 01896 752431) to arrange a chat.