It’s estimated there are at least 800,000 young carers in the UK. These are children under the age of 18 who end up looking after a parent or other family member, whether because of physical or mental illnesses, or problems with substance abuse. At present, the law doesn’t provide any sort of financial support for their work, despite them often being in sole charge of the household. And because of their young age, they can face legal restrictions to becoming proxies, which affect their ability to collect prescriptions or attend doctor’s appointments.
Adapted by Matt Woodhead following two years of research, Who Cares is a collage of verbatim pieces, gathered directly from young carers in the Salford area. Pushed by circumstances, these children find themselves having to “become parents overnight”, suddenly in charge of a non-self-sufficient family member. Their testimonies are a sobering reality check.
Nicole (Lizzie Mounter) started to care for her mother at the age of four, when she suddenly had a stroke. Jade (Jessica Temple) grew up looking after her deaf brother, and when her father had a serious accident, she was left alone to care for both. Connor (Luke Grant) has learned since early childhood to deal with a bipolar and depressed mother, then his father was diagnosed with fibromyalgia – making him “the man of the house”. One of the many things all have in common is they don’t like to talk about it.
Afraid of being bullied or singled out by their peers, most young carers tend to be secretive about their situation, all too often remaining undetected by school staff or social services. For this reason, it is even more important to implement outreach schemes to offer psychological support, as well as more practical assistance. But severe government cuts introduced in recent years means that this task has become increasingly difficult, with many vulnerable youths falling through the cracks of society.
Presented on stage by three strong actors in a high-paced character carousel, the depths and figures of this bleak plight are alarming. Rather than for its entertainment value – which is equally exceptional – LUNG’s work stands strong as a politically-engaged outcry. A raw denunciation of the menacing state of affairs that is currently affecting our younger generations.
Written and Directed by: Matt Woodhead
Producer: LUNG and The Lowry
Booking Information: This show has now completed its run.