A young Huddersfield carer who had to spend a great deal of time looking after her ailing nan is now a medicine student at university after getting help from the children’s charity Barnardo’s.

The charity is helping many more like her, giving them the chance to pursue their ambitions despite having time-consuming caring responsibilities.

The 19-year-old, Laura, feared her academic hopes had been dashed but the charity’s Kirklees Young Carers Service helped her to apply for university and be accepted with a lower grade threshold due to her status as a young carer.   

Laura started to have caring responsibilities for her gran around four years ago after she moved in with her grandparents during the Covid lockdown. After her gran had a seizure she sadly deteriorated drastically and lost a lot of her memory and mobility, leaving Laura and her grandad with significant caring roles.  

The practical and emotional support Laura received from Barnardo’s not only allowed her gran and grandad to receive more help at home, but the charity also helped Laura to get her university place.

This meant that some of the pressures around Laura’s A-Levels were reduced and gave her a fairer chance to access medical school, despite the challenges of having such significant caring duties.    

She said: “I look back as someone who is now a second-year medical student with a good position in a hospital and I just feel so privileged to be where I am today.

“I had a tremendous amount of worry and anxiety about my gran’s safety and wellbeing and if I didn’t have that one-to-one help I would have felt really bad for having less involvement with her. But Barnardo’s helped make sure we had the support we needed and made me feel like I could put myself first, which I’m really grateful for.  

“I also know there are so many other young carers who have the potential to chase careers and achieve things they want to do in life but feel they won’t be able to. That’s why it’s so important for more to be done to widen access to higher education for young carers because caring shouldn’t prevent us from going into the career we want to.”  

There are an estimated one million young carers in the UK – children and young people looking after a family member or friend who is ill, has a disability or misuses drugs or alcohol.   

Young carers can carry out tasks including cooking, cleaning and shopping, as well as providing nursing, personal care, giving emotional support, administering medication, managing finances and taking care of siblings.  

Kerry McKenna, children’s services manager for Kirklees Young Carers service, said: “Young carers are amazing young people who give so much to help care for their loved ones and this role is rightly a source of pride for many. But, without the right support, their caring responsibilities can also have a huge impact on their mental health, wellbeing and future opportunities.   

“Many children and young people don’t know they are young carers or that they are entitled to support. It’s crucial that within our communities we identify young people who are carers so we can support them to have a childhood and their own life outside of caring, as well as being able to access the same opportunities as others their age.  

“We are delighted for Laura with all that she has achieved and hope her story can inspire other young carers and provide them with aspirations for their future, whatever that may be.  

“If anyone thinks they may be a young carer or wants to seek advice for another young person we would encourage them to get in contact with us and we can arrange an assessment to help identify their needs.”  

Barnardo’s Kirklees Young Carers Service provides support for young carers from the age of eight and young adult carers up to and including the age of 24 across Kirklees.  

The service, commissioned by Kirklees Council, carries out assessments with young carers to ensure the whole family is receiving the right level of care from a range of agencies. Support plans are put in place and reviewed to meet the young person’s needs and reduce the negative impact of their caring role.  

Specialist workers from Barnardo’s provide one-to-one support to young carers, including emotional support, information and emergency planning, liaison with schools, as well as running groups and opportunities for breaks from care, where they can meet other young carers and share experiences with each other. 

Barnardo’s Kirklees Young Carers Service can be contacted on 01484 426100, email kirkleesyoungcarers@barnardos.org.uk or go to the website https://www.barnardos.org.uk/get-support/services/kirklees-young-carers

Written by ANDY HIRST who runs his own Yorkshire freelance journalism agency AH! PR (https://ah-pr.com/) specialising in press releases, blogging, website content and copywriting.