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Looking After Mum

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Runtime:
59 minutes
Director:
Lottie Gammon
Executive Producer:
Brian Woods
Released
2014
Category

Looking After Mum - A Children in Need Special

Every day across the country an army of unsung child heroes faces extraordinary challenges that most adults would struggle to cope with. They are Britain’s 700,000 young carers.

While many feel stigmatised, overlooked and even bullied by a society that doesn’t understand the difficulties they face, others are fiercely proud and protective of their role. In this film we get to know four young carers, giving us a rare chance to see into their world – a world that can lurch between joy and heartache in an instant.


Over the course of several months these young carers allowed our cameras to follow them and their families as they deal with situations most adults would struggle to cope with.  All four look after mothers who need continual care - from a life-threatening condition to mental health problems and blindness.  What unites them is their deeply engrained sense of responsibility and an unbreakable bond with their mother.  They all have to find a way to balance their caring roles with the need to still have and enjoy a childhood.

Brothers Tom (10) and Joe (14) look after their mum Vicky who has a rare liver condition that has become critical over the last two years. Without a liver transplant she only has months to live. Antonia-Rae (11) lives alone with her mum Lesley who has had a stroke leaving her paralysed down her right side and battling with depression. Kashanna (18) has cared for her blind mother Bernadette since she was four and she’s recently quit college so she can work and support her mum.

The film follows these young people as they navigate the formative moments of their life alongside the emotional strain and anxiety of caring. It captures the extraordinary strength and resilience of a group that often remains in the shadows.

For more information about what young carers do and to find support, click here.

If you think you might be a young carer, click here to find services near you.

Click here to read an article in The Guardian about Antonia-Rae and another young carer, Hannah Bricklebank, featured below.

Click here to read more about Antonia-Rae and Tom in The Mirror.

The Young Carers

Brothers Tom (10) & Joe (14) live with their parents Vicky and Tommy in Stockport. Tom was just 9 months old when their mum was diagnosed with a rare liver disease called Primary Biliary Cirrhosis in her early twenties, so being a carer is all he has ever known. In the last two years the boys’ caring roles have recently stepped up as Vicky’s condition has deteriorated.  Their Dad works long hours and often does nights so the boys work together to look after their mum.

Tom takes his role particularly seriously - he’s very protective of Vicky and doesn’t like to leave her side.  He hopes to be a doctor one day and helps to feed her and take her medication.   The wait for Vicky’s liver transplant is excruciating as they see her relentlessly getting worse, but despite this the family is fueled by optimism.  The boys together are a small super hero double act, filled with boundless energy; they are experts at keeping Vicky’s spirits up and making her laugh.

Antonia-Rae (11) lives with single mum Lesley in Greater Manchester. Lesley suffered a stroke when Antonia-Rae was just three years old, which left her paralysed down the right side of her body. She never regained any functioning in her right arm and has limited use of her legs. The incident also caused neurological damage, bringing on a language disorder known as dysphasia, memory difficulties and depression.

Antonia-Rae has cared for Lesley since she was six, though she was only recognised as a young carer for the first time this spring. She does everything for her mum from washing, ironing, helping her to read and write, getting dressed and even washing.  But the part that keeps her awake at night is emotionally supporting her mum through depression.

Things came to a head earlier in the year, and we follow Antonia-Rae and Lesley as they attempt to rebuild their bond of trust over the summer before she starts secondary school.  She’s leaving the familiarity of Year 6 and is worried about how she’ll be treated as a young carer in secondary school.   Many children could feel overwhelmed by Antonia-Rae’s situation but she’s inspiring in her resilience and thoughtfulness.

Kashanna (18) lives in Slough with her blind mum Bernadette.  From the age of four Kashanna started helping her mum read letters.  Kashanna now runs the household, from the food shopping and managing bills through to guiding and picking her mum's clothes. Kashanna is fun, vivacious like Bernie and they are very close.  She’s proud of her caring role and sees it as a key part of her identity but does feel the weight of the responsibility. Finances have been a strain and Kashanna decided to quit college and work to support the family.   She’s worried about her future and is torn between wanting to stay with her mum and spreading her wings.

Hear from 3 more Young Carers here

Samuel (9) lives with single mum Sandra in York. Sandra suffers from Transient Ischaemic Attack (TIA), a condition often described as “mini strokes”.  She can have up to two of these attacks a day, which usually last up to five minutes but can be fatal if they develop into a full stroke.  Samuel is always on the alert and prefers to stay close by his mum’s side.  When he is “off duty” he likes nothing better than playing with his extensive Doctor Who collection.  Sandra suffered her first full stroke when Samuel was two years old and he has been caring for her since he was old enough to do so.

Saoirse (10) lives in Kent with her mum and younger brother Tadhg (7) who has severe autism.  Tadhg has no language and needs constant supervision.  Since he was diagnosed at age two Saoirse has shared the caring responsibilities with her mum Leanne and together the two make a tight knit team.  Saoirse is a model pupil and despite all the demands of home life has managed to excel at school.  She has a very close bond with both her mum and brother and is positive about their future together.

Hannah (13) lives with her mum and dad in Bournemouth and has been caring for both parents from the age of five.  Mum Ellen has fibromyalgia and after suffering five strokes has been left with limited mobility.  Dad Norman has type 2 diabetes and struggles with severe depression amongst other health issues.  Hannah is extremely capable and resilient, but does find it difficult juggling schoolwork and socialising with all of her responsibilities at home.  When she is feeling stressed she loves to spend time with Shetland pony Badger, who is an expert at listening and lifting her spirits!

Read Antonia-Rae and Tom's stories, as retold in Woman's Own here

The Facts

The term young carer should be taken to include children and young people under 18 who provide regular or ongoing care and emotional support to a family member who is physically or mentally ill, disabled or misuses substances

(Hidden from View – The Children’s Society, 2013)

  • Nearly 15,000 children in England up to the age of 17 are providing more than 50 hours of care every week.[i]

  • 50% of young carers said they were caring for someone with a physical health problem, 29% for a person with a mental health problem, 17% for someone with a learning difficulty and 3% for someone with a sensory impairment (Young Carers  in the UK, 2004).

  • Around one in 20 young carers miss school because of their caring responsibilities, affecting not just their education but their chances of longer term employment (The Children’s Society, 2013).

  • They have significantly lower educational attainment at GCSE level, the equivalent to nine grades lower overall than their peers (The Children’s Society,  2013).

  • They are more likely than the national average not to be in education, employment or training (NEET) between the ages of 16 and 19, which reduces their future life chances (The Children’s Society, 2013).

  • Although young carers need extra support, they are no more likely to find it from statutory agencies than other children (The Children’s Society, 2013).

  • A quarter of young carers said they were bullied at school because of their caring role. Only half had received additional support from a member of school staff (Carers Trust, 2013).

  • The average annual income for families with a young carer is £5,000 less than families who do not have a young carer (The Children’s Society, 2013).

The Children’s Society’s full report, Hidden from View: the experiences of young carers in England (2013), can be seen here.

The latest general survey Young Carers in the UK was conducted in 2004 – click here to see the full report.

For information about Young Adult Carers and Employment, including a link to the full 2014 report, click here.

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