One of the biggest problems we face in our work is identifying young carers. It’s the first step to being able to support them, but for many reasons it can be a major challenge. So when we manage to find those hidden young carers and get them ongoing support, it’s a great feeling. Our Operations Manager Steve told us about one young carer whose visit to Honeypot turned out to be life-changing…
Katie* was referred to Honeypot for a social and emotional learning (SEAL) break by her primary school last year. Our normal breaks are just for young carers, but SEAL breaks also take other vulnerable children. Many children referred to us for SEAL breaks lack confidence and struggle with social interaction, but Katie clearly found things more difficult than most.
On her first evening with us she sat at the dining table, face down, staring at an empty plate. She was overwhelmed by the strange setting, surrounded by children happily babbling away eating their roast dinner. Katie couldn’t bring herself to talk to the Honeypot team or other children in more than a word or two, unable to make eye contact with anyone. That night, we all worried that we might not get her through the break.
The next day, working through a series of activities specifically designed to build confidence and prove to children what they CAN achieve, Katie slowly began to come out of her shell. At dinner that evening she told a member of the team that she was very worried about her parent, who has a number of serious and complex health conditions. She talked about how she’d always known their address so she could call an ambulance, how she wanted to be a doctor so she can cure her parent’s illness, and how she was worried that they might not be okay while she was away. From what she said it was clear she was one of the UK’s thousands of hidden young carers.
Over the course of that break, with lots of support and encouragement from Honeypot staff Katie’s confidence blossomed. She became more chatty with staff and other children, she learned to ride a bike (which she hadn’t done at home because where she lives is “too scary”, she said) and she left us with a big smile. Her head teacher wrote to us a week later to say she seemed like a totally different child.
Now that we knew Katie was a young carer, we wanted to make sure she got the support she needed so we decided to call her parent for a chat. We talked about how well Katie was doing and what she’d told us about her caring responsibilities, and asked whether they’d be interested in having Katie referred back to us for young carer respite breaks. They were keen to take up the offer of support and asked that we speak directly with Katie to see how she felt about coming back to Honeypot – and she agreed!
When Katie came back to Honeypot on a young carers’ break a few months later, we were anxious to see if she’d kept up her progress. It didn’t take long to find out the answer. Stepping off the bus Katie called out to a member of staff she knew from her SEAL break, excitedly telling them all about the new bicycle she got for Christmas and how she practices every day. Over the course of her respite break it was clear that Katie had not only maintained but been able to build on her achievements from her SEAL break – laughing, joking and playing with a whole new group of children she’d not met before and having a great time. During her break we visited a local animal park, her amazing intelligence again obvious from her thoughtful discussion of all sorts of things from the ethics of zoos to the disease currently affecting Tasmanian Devils. Katie revealed herself to be an extraordinarily intelligent young person with great hopes and ambitions, now able to engage with the world in ways she’d previously found impossible.
The Honeypot team are immensely proud of Katie and humbled by what she’s been able to achieve with a little support from us. It can be a real challenge to find hidden young carers like Katie, and we’re lucky that the SEAL break she went on gave her the chance to open up about her caring responsibilities so we could get her the support she needed. We very much look forward to welcoming her back to Honeypot House next time.