“I remember I’m not like other kids.” Read Jaiden’s story of becoming a primary carer aged 12, in a system where life as a young carer could cost him his physical and mental health.

As a young carer, Jaiden has witnessed the mental health struggles of his Mum and older brother, Edward, who was a young carer himself.

Jaiden is softly spoken with a maturity beyond his age. He told us about the pressure he’s facing since Edward left for university this year and Jaiden’s become the primary carer at home.

This is Jaiden’s story.

Jaiden has always known his Mum to be unwell and started caring for her since he was 7.  Sheila suffers health problems including liver problems, gout, sleep apnoea, and lupus. Her health has improved since a successful surgery and she’s been walking without crutches for 3 months.

However, Sheila’s mobility is still limited and she can rarely leave the house:

“Every mum takes their kids out. I can’t even take him to the park.”

“One day he came home, and said, “Mum, I can ride a bike now.” Jaiden surprised her with his determination. Sitting on the sofa he looks out at his bike slumped in the garden; it currently has a flat tyre.

“I just taught myself somehow.”

What makes young carers special is their ability to do the somehow. They take on responsibilities you couldn’t imagine possible from a child. 

Pressure.

Jaiden’s teachers told Sheila he will play with other kids but suddenly stops.  

“I remember I’m not like other kids because they don’t have anything to do at home.”

Many children in the UK are undertaking in excess of 15 hours a week of caring for a family member and in some 13,000 cases, as many as 50 hours a week. Jaiden has been struggling to complete homework due to lack of time.

Unpaid carers save the UK £132 billion a year – the cost of a second NHS.

When we asked Jaiden what advice he would give to young carers like him, he said: “It’s okay if you don’t want to tell anyone about being a young carer. But let them help support you. And be strong.”

At school, Jaiden made sense of his feelings of isolation through art. He painted ‘Alone’  which prompted a referral to his GP. Now a care assistant briefly comes in the morning and evening. Jaiden was 10 years old.

Due to Sheila’s sleep apnoea, Jaiden sometimes sleeps in Mum’s room to keep an eye on her and help her with her mask.

Jaiden is his Mum’s lifeline. “He gives me some hope, to hang in there.” Children who provide emotional support to parents comprehend complex adult emotions as a child:

“Mum is sad, she tries to hide it”

Jaiden says he can be shy; he does not talk to other kids about his life outside of school. But the respite breaks at Honeypot were different:

“At Honeypot, I made friends I could trust.”

He was the oldest on his third repeat respite break with us, and the younger boys looked up to him. A boy he knew from the local area came along on the break too. Together they played on the beach making sand castles.

“When he came back from Honeypot I’ve never seen him so happy before.” 

At Honeypot we provide life-changing respite to children from their caring duties, ensuring they do not miss out on childhood.

Potential.

Young carers are at a higher risk of depression, anxiety, stress, poor mental and physical health, truancy and of being NEET in later life. (Not in Education, Employment, or Training).

A childhood helps ensure brighter long-term outcomes for children into their adult lives.

Jaiden’s older brother, Edward, has struggled with depression caused from being a young carer, he felt isolated from his friends because he needed to be at home. Jaiden is visibly upset recalling his brother’s recent struggles.

Sheila told us about her worries for her children and others locally:

“If it hadn’t been for Honeypot and the Lambeth Young Carers Centre, I don’t know what would have happened to these boys.”

Sheila’s worries echo concerns over recent crime in their neighbourhood. In nearby Bett’s park, 17-year-old Michael Jonas became a fatal victim of knife crime in 2017. Earlier this month, 22-year-old Ayodeji Habeeb Azeez was murdered by a knife seconds from Jaiden and Sheila’s front door.

“I need people to know that these things help so much. I believe in Honeypot and the Lambeth Young Carers centre, they give the kids something to do off of the streets.”

Edward, moved out this year to study Politics at University. He had to be persuaded into going to university by the Young Carers centre because he was concerned about leaving Sheila and Jaiden.

Jaiden says he misses his brother but is proud of him: “He is kinda my role model.” They talk on the phone regularly.

Hope.

Jaiden wants to go into a creative career when he’s older, “I want to be an artist, designer, or like an architect.” At the moment he does not know about any art clubs he can go to in the Croydon area.

He told us if he could change anything “I wish all my family wasn’t far away and everyone was like here and everyone was happy.”

This Christmas we are working to provide outreach play days and deliver Christmas presents. As well as having 7 respite breaks in December at both Honeypot respite houses in Hampshire and Wales.

You can support young carers, like Jaiden, here.

Sources:
https://www.carersuk.org/news-and-campaigns/news/unpaid-carers-save-the-uk-132-billion-a-year-the-cost-of-a-second-nhs
https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-46193379
https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/stories-45683971
https://www.honeypot.org.uk/what-we-do/who-we-help/
https://carers.org/press-release/new-figures-reveal-life-chances-uks-young-carers-are-under-threat

Author: Sarah Fowler.
Contact: sarahf@honeypot.org.uk