Provision in a Pandemic: Stepping Up for Young Carers
The outbreak of Coronavirus impacted us all, and nobody more so than our young carers. Facing increased caring responsibilities and subjected to heightened levels of social isolation, young carers needed the support of MYTime more than ever during lockdown, and we weren’t about to let them down.
Since our foundation in 2013, we have worked to tackle high stress levels and feelings of loneliness by bringing the young carer community together. With social gatherings prohibited by law from the 23rd March, our usual modes of supporting young carers suddenly became redundant. One thing was clear: we needed to find ways to adapt, and fast.
It took us less than three weeks from the day that lockdown was announced to launch the first stage of our emergency Covid-19 response, MYTime@Home. Based on the 5 ways to wellbeing this programme was designed to provide young carers with easily accessible opportunities for leisure and relaxation, and to help support their mental wellbeing. Via YouTube, we set about curating and releasing a series of online video activitiesfor young carers to join in with at home. Today, these videos have been viewed more than 1500 times,and shared across the nation by organisations such as Military Young Carers, Warwickshire Young Carers and Isle of Wight Young Carers too.
Next came an exciting collaboration with the creative arts charity, Create. Together, we hosted a three day Zoom photography workshop for six young carers in May half term. The workshop allowed the children to find beauty and inspiration within the four walls of their homes, and incorporated plenty of opportunities for teamwork. The project culminated in parents and siblings gathering around their computer screens to watch an online presentation of the work that had been produced, and to celebrate the achievements of the children involved. 100% of participants said that the workshop had helped to enhance their creativity, that they had made new friends and that they had enjoyed the project. We’d call that a success!
Inspired by the opportunity for social connection that our photography workshop had created, we soon launched a weekly Zoom Youth Group for young carers. Each session centred around a different activity, from circus skills, to drumming, to yoga. When participants needed equipment to be able to join in, for example ingredients for a baking session, we organised home deliveries to make sure no one was left out. Since the launch of the Zoom Youth Group in May, over 25 young carers have attended. Of these, 100% have reported that they enjoyed the youth group very much and felt less stressed as a result of attending. Of those who reported feeling lonely prior to a session, 100% have also reported feeling less socially isolated afterwards. Our Zoom Youth Group will continue through September, and will support young carers as they adjust to the reopening of schools.
The final strand of our Covid-19 response provision was by far the furthest outside of our usual remit. While our other programmes aimed to address levels of stress and isolation in young carers, our Food Provision Programme catered to a more basic and fundamental need. Too young to drive or to travel to shops on their own, young carers often depend on supermarket home delivery services for their food shopping. Because they were not recognised as a 'clinically vulnerable' group by government, many were unable to access these services during lockdown, and so struggled to access food. Some had to rely on local corner shops with inflated prices, and consequently found themselves unable to afford three meals a day. Through our Food Provision Programme, and with the help of an amazing team of volunteers from the Bike Shed Motorcycle Club, we delivered the weekly food shopping to 20 of the most vulnerable young carers in Dorset and their families. Our community really got behind us, enabling us to continue to deliver this vital service throughout lockdown and beyond, and ultimately, we were able to deliver a total of 143 food shops.
It’s been a tough and unpredictable six months. We’ve needed to move quickly and proactively to meet the emerging needs of young carers, and we’ve had to stay strong, focused and positive throughout. It’s been challenging, but we’ve been endlessly inspired by the incredible resilience and stoicism of our amazing young carers. They’ve taken the unimaginable in their stride this year, and weare proud and privileged to have been able to support them when they’ve needed it most. We cannot know what the future brings now. We cannot know how our ‘new normal’ will evolve. What we doknow is that we will continue to do our best for young carers and to support them, however we can, no matter what the future holds.