SWL’s Unsung Heroes: Richmond teenager delighted after Young Carers Service helps fund trip to America


Georgia helps care for her autistic younger brother.


By Tom Powell

Georgia didn’t even realise she was a young carer until she was 14.

The 17-year-old, now in her final year of A levels, cares for her younger brother Adam. Adam is 12, is severely autistic and has a rare form of epilepsy called dravet syndrome. This severely affects his learning and communication.

“A lot of the time it’s about keeping him calm because he tends to get very frustrated. His communication is very limited and it’s hard to understand him,” she explains.

“I do little tasks like helping him to dress or making him breakfast.”

One feature of Adam’s is his incredible strength. Sarah Scott, Young Carers Support Worker, described being picked up and carried across the living room in a millisecond.

“That was something that Georgia had told me before which I took quite lightly,” she said.

“He literally picked me up by the scruff of my neck and threw me across the room. I’ve never known anything like it.”

Georgia and her mum are having to deal with his strength on a daily basis, and he’s only getting older and bigger.

“He’s getting really strong. He’s already taller than my mum.

If you’re doing something then he doesn’t take no for an answer. He’ll just drag you there anyway.

It can be very stressful; he’s got to the age where he’s turning into that sibling who wants to argue. He’s getting rude and he tries to hurt me, and because he’s so strong he actually does.”

However, Georgia was quick to emphasise that when her brother isn’t waging war on her, they are very close.

“We’re like best friends- when he’s not hurting me. I’d say that was 50/50,” she said.

“Some days he wakes up and he’s really loving and really nice to me but by the time I get in from school he’s changed his mind, he doesn’t like me anymore.”

Richmond’s Young Carers Service is designed to help people exactly like Georgia who live with the stress of caring for someone else. The service take them on residential breaks, to take them away from the pressures of caring, and spend time with other young carers. Georgia has been to museums, Thorpe Park and on longer activity breaks.

They are also in the process of organising a ‘rant-room’, where young carers can meet twice a month to chat informally but also discuss important issues such as friendship and identity.

“Some days we might just want to come in and load off, or we might organise a residential trip,” Georgia explained.

“We’re deciding how regular we want the meetings and what types of things we want to talk about.”

They also run a separate sibling carers afterschool club, which runs a host of activities during the school holidays.

In the summer of 2012, the young carers service achieved an important first that will hopefully be emulated by others in years to come. Georgia and one other girl, also a young carer, went to Camp Mason in New Jersey for a month.

“I did a CIT (Councillor in Training) course, at first it involved role play teaching us about dangers and things to look out for when looking after children.

“I ended up staying in a cabin with ten 11-year-old girls. We had to be in charge of the children, running activities, being there for support.

“It feels like so long ago now. It was just amazing in general.”

The experience was made possible by Richmond Council’s Carers’ Break Payment, which gives young carers £250 a year to spend on a leisure activity for themselves. Georgia and her Mum also worked voluntarily at a local charity shop run by the trip organisers.

For someone who spends so much of their life caring for someone else, to have a whole month away is a great opportunity.

Georgia is currently writing her personal statement, with hopes of applying for a drama course at university.

“I think overall I’d like to be a drama teacher or coach,” she said.

“I think I do have a passion for looking after kids.

The effort that Georgia and many other carers put in goes largely unrecognised, but with the opportunities provided by the Young Carers Service they are able to be themselves, free of the ‘young carer’ label.

For more information on the Young Carers Service call 0208 867 23 83 or email [email protected]

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