Suffolk Family Carers launches Young Adult ID Card at West Suffolk Hospital to mark Carers Week
Young carers find themselves up against challenges on a daily basis.
But a new scheme launched at West Suffolk Hospital this week will help to take some of the weight of their shoulders.
In partnership with West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, Suffolk Family Carers has created a new Young Adult Carers Identification Card which will enable those aged 16 to 24 to be recognised as care providers and have access to medical information.
Emily Meadows, young people’s service manager at Suffolk Family Carers, said: “This ID card is really important as young adult carers often go unnoticed when healthcare professionals are dealing with their patients.
“This card will enable them to identify themselves so that they can be involved in decision making and discharge planning, and will help to increase awareness of young carers and young adult carers among healthcare professionals.”
Chloe Hunter-King, who is a student at Thurston Sixth Form, is one of thousands in the county who could benefit from the scheme.
The 17-year-old cares for her 13-year-old brother Johnathon who has cerebral palsy, with her duties including getting him up and ready for school as well as general caring for him and entertaining him.
She has also cared for her older brother and grandmother in the past.
“I’m lucky because caring for Johnathon doesn’t usually mean that I have to come to hospital very often but it’s great to know that if you should ever have to, that you will be noticed and taken seriously,” she said.
“I know other young carers who are in and out of hospital with their family members all the time and this will make the world of difference to them.
“It’s all about recognition for what we do. A lot of people think it’s just a family duty to look after someone but it’s hard work and it takes its toll on the carer as well.
“So it’s important to recognise carers and make their job a little easier which I think this will definitely do.”
Another young adult carer called Sophie said: “The Young Adult Carers ID Card is such a good idea as it means that we won’t be overlooked by healthcare professionals just because of our age.
“Professionals can assume that they are protecting us by not including us in conversations but we are already caring for our loved ones and have a good understanding of their needs.
“Having a card will make it easier to talk to healthcare professionals and will give me the confidence to speak up if I’m not being involved.”
Dr Stephen Dunn, chief executive at the hospital, which has been named a carer friendly hospital, said: “We really appreciate the vital health and wellbeing support family carers provide to our patients, and ensuring our young adult carers are identifiable and included in some really important conversations about the care needs of their loved ones is vital.
“We hope this initiative reaps positive benefits for our patients, carers and our healthcare professionals, and that together we can improve the health outcomes of those in our care.”
The system was launched on Monday, coinciding with the start of National Carers Week, which aims to celebrate and provide support to the 6.5 million carers across the UK who often sacrifice their own health and wellbeing to carry out their caring duties.
Research conducted by Carers UK found that almost three quarters of carers in the UK said they had suffered mental ill health as a result of caring for others, while more than 60 per cent said their physical health had worsened.
And with Suffolk Family Carers providing support to children as young as five, Emily said that identifying those who need support and helping them to cope is as important as ever.
“Some 88,000 children and adults across Suffolk provide care, unpaid, for a disabled, older or ill family member or friend,” said Emily.
“Whilst caring can be rewarding, without the right support it can also take a serious toll on a carer’s health, relationships and finances.
“That’s why this Carer’s Week, we are asking individuals and communities across Suffolk to do what they can to make life that little bit easier for carers.”
She added: “Carers Week just gives everyone a chance to really think about what these people young and old have sitting on their shoulders which means they can help us to help them as best as possible.”
This week has seen the Suffolk Family Carers bus tour the county, visiting supermarkets and leisure centres to provide information and advice.
The team also pays visits to schools, hospitals and GP surgeries to ensure that any carers who may be suffering in silence are identified and given the appropriate support.