Ella raises awareness of young carers during Carers Week
This week in the UK is Carers Week. The annual campaign aims to raise awareness of the challenges carers face and the contribution they make to families and communities throughout the UK.
Ella Mckenzie was named as one of this year’s Queen’s Young Leaders Award winners for her work to support young carers in her community. She runs the Take the Lead project at Carers Trust Cambridgeshire, a leadership project for young adult carers.
Here she answers some questions about her experiences of being a carer for her mum.
What does it mean to be a young carer?
A carer is somebody who looks after a family member or a loved one who has a disability, mental health issues or suffers from substance misuse. Being a carer isn’t a choice, it just happens. A young carer isn’t a superhero, we are normal people who just have to do more than others our own age.
How did you end up becoming a young carer?
I became a young adult carer when my mum had a heart attack which made an underlining illness dramatically worse. She suffers from fibromyalgia, which affects her mobility and memory and causes her to be in constant pain every day. As a result of her condition I have to help her with everyday tasks such as walking, cooking, cleaning and taking medication.
Why is Carer’s Week important?
Carers Week is important because it helps us to raise more awareness for all carers, whatever age they are. It also helps young carers, like myself, who are not yet involved with the organisation to find the support and information that they may need. The theme of this year’s Carers Week is building Carer Friendly Communities and it also helps members of the public to understand more about carers and the contribution they make to families across the UK.
How does Take the Lead project help Young Adult Carers?
At the Take the Lead project which I run at the Carers Trust Cambridgeshire, we teach young adult carers leadership skills so that when they go out into the world of work they feel more confident. The project also gives them a chance to make new friends and take part in a three-day residential where they are able to take part in a wide range of activities that they may not have had a chance to do before, such as canoeing and high ropes. This is a great way to face their fears and demonstrate the leadership and team skills that they have been learning.
What support can other people offer to young carers?
Having friends that understand what you are going through is important when you are a young carer, but I also think that it is crucial that other people across the country understand what carers do, so that all of the ‘hidden’ young carers out there are able to get the support they need.
How has being awarded the Queen’s Young Leaders Award helped you in your work?
I feel that being chosen as one of this year’s Queen’s Young Leaders Award winners has helped me to raise more awareness for carers and has hopefully encouraged ‘hidden’ carers to ask for assistance. I want to raise awareness of the challenges carers face and to show other young people in a similar position to mine that they are not alone.