Wednesday 24th June 2015
Mac Voice, the magazine for Macmillan professionals: Summer 2015
How two Macmillan partnership programmes are identifying and supporting young cancer carers – and how you can help
In the UK there are around 177,000 identified children and young people who provide some level of unpaid care to another family member.
Being a young carer can have a significant impact on a young person’s emotional and physical wellbeing; causing stress and worry, and affecting school work, free time, and relationships with friends and family. If a young carer is looking after someone with cancer, the fluctuating nature and pace of the disease often means they need urgent support. We know that young carers are even less likely to identify themselves than adult carers, and therefore they may miss out on the support that is available to them.
This article highlights two Macmillan partnership programmes that are helping young cancer carers, and explains what you can do to help. We need you to identify young people affected by cancer, and signpost them to our resources.
Newry and Mourne
Since 2012, two part-time Macmillan Support Workers have been helping carers of people with cancer right across the Southern Health and Social Care Trust area in Northern Ireland. This is part of the Newry and Mourne programme – a partnership between Macmillan and the Carers Trust that offers a range of support to both young and adult carers. The help on offer includes emotional and practical support, training and respite advice. So far the programme has supported 400 families.
Sean Caughey, Operations Manager for the programme, explains why early intervention can be vital with young carers: ‘If young carers aren’t identified and supported early, their caring role can take over, limit their opportunities in life and ultimately damage their health. Later on, as young carers become young adults, their responsibilities can increase. Just when their horizons should be broadening, they find themselves faced with barriers to college, university, training and employment.’
As Sean says, many young carers are worried about school, relationships with family and friends, work or money. These topics are covered in Macmillan’s young carers booklet, A guide for young people looking after someone with cancer.
Macmillan’s Carers Support Programme has recently worked with the Carers Association in South Tyneside (CAST) to update A guide for young people looking after someone with cancer, and to create a new film for young cancer carers. Our film meets young cancer carers and highlights the importance of access to services such as those offered at CAST in helping young people feel supported.
CAST works extensively with young carers, including helping in school and running support groups for young people of all ages. June, CAST Macmillan Schools Coordinator, says: ‘We can’t take away people’s illness, but we want to see somebody who knows they can access support and cope with their caring role’. The work at CAST is very successful because it undertakes extensive awareness-raising work to identify young carers, and has built very strong relationships with schools and local youth organisations.
Order A guide for young people looking after someone with cancer and watch the film at macmillan.org.uk/youngcarers. To find out what young carers services are available in your area call the Macmillan Support Line on 0808 808 00 00.
Carers Support Programme Manager
Macmillan Cancer Support