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Young carers are the ultimate team players

Young carers are the ultimate team players

Too often, young carers can feel socially isolated and invisible. A local project, run through a football club, is seeking to change that.

Although it is hard to believe, there are 700,000 young carers living in the UK, looking after other members of their family.

Ealing Young Carers gives carers between eight and 18 years old somewhere to socialise, learn new skills and gain in confidence – and, for the older ones, even work towards building a career.

The project is commissioned by Ealing Council and run by Brentford Football Club’s Community Sports Trust. The Championship club’s specialist team offers one-to-one mentoring and a wide range of activities, including: After-school homework clubs; lunchtime clubs; fortnightly youth clubs; fortnightly swimming clubs; and holiday and day trips.

Employment and education opportunities are made available too, including work experience placements and visits to businesses – and also advice on CV writing and the whole job search process.

‘YOUNG CARERS OFTEN MISS OUT’

Lee Doyle, chief executive of Brentford FC Community Sports Trust, said: “Since Ealing Councilcommissioned the trust to run the project, participation has gone from 25 young carers to nearly 200.

“Because of their caring commitments, young carers can often miss out on social opportunities that other young people take for granted. Through Ealing Young Carers, we are providing much-needed respite and support.”

PRACTICAL AND EMOTIONAL SUPPORT
Kathryn of Brentford FC CST, and young carer Ali, at the club's stadium
Kathryn of Brentford FC CST, and young carer Ali, at the club’s stadium

Young carers also receive practical and emotional support from the project’s co-ordinator – Kathryn Sobczak. A former young carer herself, she offers vital advice and mentoring to young carers who are struggling.

She said: “We provide lots of different sessions for these young carers so that they can have a break from being a carer. They get to meet other young carers, gain confidence and become less isolated. We find that many young carers do not get to leave the house to get to meet other young people, so this gives them that opportunity.”

‘IT GIVES ME A BOOST’
Young carer Ali
Young carer Ali

One of the current young carers is Ali Umar from Southall, who has been attending since he was 12. He has since become a volunteer with the project as well.

Ali, now turned 19, said: “It gives me an opportunity to learn about CVs,jobs, interviews, and how to present myself. It gives me a boost.

“As a young carer, I take care of my younger siblings and think of them before I think of myself. In practical terms, I take them to school, make food for them and look after them. Basically, I’ve had to grow up a lot faster, because I have to think like a grown-up.

“My family think what I have been doing with young carers is a great way to express myself despite whatever I am going through, be it psychologically, emotionally, physically. My family know that I am safe and can learn a lot.”

Kathryn added: “Ali has been with the young carers projects for seven years now. He has been to many of our different sessions. As time has gone on he has now become a volunteer with the project as well. So, he helps us out with some of the trips with some of the younger carers as a mentor and he got involved in our Get Set Project.”

The Get Set project aims to support the young carers with training and employment opportunities and prepare for the world of work outside their caring roles.

‘LIFE HAS BEEN REALLY TOUGH FOR SOME OF THEM’

Peter Shears, senior project manager at the trust, said: “One of the greatest things about the Get Set project is that it builds up their confidence. We want to walk with them on their journey, so it is not holding their hand and taking them to places. Also it is trial and error, if something doesn’t work out that is fine, we can find something else. This also allows them to develop a lot of knowledge on different aspects of a business. Growing confidence and knowledge are the two best things about the programme.

“Very often they are thinking ‘I probably can’t do a job as I don’t really know what I want can do’. Life has been really tough for some of them, but then they do really well and that is definitely a positive thing. It can be hard to get up and find a job and we are there to help them do that.”