Last month we interviewed Matt Woodhead, author of Who Cares?, as well as Campaign Manager for the Who Cares Campaign. Matt’s passion for young carers had a profound effect on us at Everything Theatre so we wanted to do more for him and to support Young Carers Action Day. What follows is the joint work of Matt, LUNG theatre, Who Cares Campaign and some of the young carers supported by the organisations involved with the campaign.
And if you can, please do show your support by making a donation towards the Who Cares Campaign.
Today is Young Carers Action Day. At LUNG we are standing shoulder to shoulder with them.
My message to young carers is that you are not alone
In the middle of last year’s lockdown madness, there was a ray of sunshine at LUNG HQ. The loo roll shelves in the supermarket were bare and theatres were empty, but for us there was a glimmer of hope: Gitika Buttoo joined our team.
Every week for the last five months, Gitika has been spearheading LUNG’s Young Carer Creative Makers. In partnership with young carers services and their local theatres, Gitika has run online workshops with young carers in Salford, Kent, Cheshire West and North Wales. The mission? To train 30 teenagers up to be young leaders and radical artists.
There are an estimated 700,000 young carers in the UK who have been providing unpaid full time care to family members or a loved one during the Coronavirus lockdown. One in twelve young people experience being a young carer. That’s two in every class.
Today is Young Carers Action Day. This is an annual event, organised by Carers Trust, aimed at raising awareness for young carers and the incredible contribution they make to their families and local communities. To mark the occasion, the Young Carer Creative Makers are getting active and banging the drum for other teenagers like them across the country.
Tonight, these 30 young carers are doing a special performance for their family members, friends, teachers, councillors and decision makers. Ahead of the performance, we caught up with the group. Below is what they had to say, in their own words. On Young Carers Action Day 2021, this is what they want you to know:
A message from young carers for the arts…
- ‘Every single young carer needs a free creative space to express themselves and who they are. Although we have big responsibilities, it doesn’t mean we don’t have the potential to become artists, writers, authors. You name it, we can achieve it.’
- ‘Sometimes, just being a young person is a lot. We need to have a space and a place to breathe.’
A message from young carers for grown-ups…
- ‘We are not children, but we are not adults. We are kind of in a category in-between. I don’t think grown-ups understand how much our caring responsibilities affect our lives and how we’re different because of that.’
- ‘I have been bullied. When I told people in my class I am a young carer, they said “You can’t be a young carer, you are autistic.” They think I am saying it for attention. That’s why we need more support – or more awareness in schools, at least, so everyone can understand.’
- ‘Teachers need to acknowledge and not stereotype us as typical teenagers. If something has happened at home and we get told off for not concentrating in class it can be overwhelming. Just being acknowledged properly as a young carer in school could be such a powerful thing.’
- ‘I told my teachers several times that I was a young carer and it didn’t matter. They didn’t do anything. I asked for help but they didn’t do anything. This needs to change.’
- ‘Young carers don’t want to look weak. We want to look strong (not just for us, but for our family too). We may not want to express our emotions, but if adults can learn about young carers, they can help without us always having to ask for it.’
A message from young carers for other young carers…
- ‘If you are an aspiring artist, don’t let limited supplies limit you. With even only a pencil and paper you can produce the most amazing things.’
- ‘Make sure you look after your mental health. I sometimes bottle up my feelings and it can come out in lots of different ways. Take time and don’t put pressure on yourself. Everyone needs a distraction from what is going on around them sometimes. You need to put yourself first.’
- ‘You are not alone, there is support out there. Like, whether that is someone who you know or your friends or your family, there is always a support there. You’ve just got to ask.’
In the last five months since Gitika’s very first session, everyone at LUNG has been bowled over by the flair and tenacity of the Young Carer Creative Makers. As well as juggling home schooling and managing their caring responsibilities, all of them have flourished and grown as independent artists. And it’s only the beginning. A fire has been lit by Gitika and these 30 young carers.
As we emerge from the third lockdown, we need to rally around our young carers. The loo roll shelf may be replenished and theatres might be planning to open their doors, but we can’t return to the status quo. In the arts and across society, we need to be doing more.
This Young Carers Action Day, take these ten messages with you – not only for today, but for the rest of 2021 and beyond. Now isn’t the time to sit back. Now is the time to get up and do something. Now is the time to act.
Matt Woodhead is the Co-Artistic Director of LUNG and author of Who Cares.
Young Carers Creative Makers is a partnership between LUNG, WCD Young Carers, Imago Young Carers, Crossroads Together, Gaddum, The Lowry, Quarterhouse in Folkestone, Theatr Clwyd and Action Transport Theatre.
If you think you might be a young carer, visit https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/1rsZS8dzkkVSqQhJXHY67kj/information-and-support-carers
To find out what you can do to support young carers, visit www.whocarescampaign.co.uk/how-to-help
To listen to Who Cares on BBC Radio 4, visit https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000s191