To mark the launch of a new website and online community specifically designed for unpaid young adult carers, the UK’s largest carers’ charity, Carers Trust, has commissioned a poll from YouGov to find out what people would be most prepared to give up if they had to become carers for a family member or friend.
The poll of 2,400 adults found that 20% of respondents were most prepared to give up their social life – second only to those most prepared to give up travelling or going on holiday (21%). And when they were asked what age group first came to mind when thinking about unpaid carers, only 10% of people thought of carers as being 25 or under, the group of carers who are so easily overlooked and who can become isolated, and who the new website – Matter – has been designed for.
The survey shows how important the social aspects of life are to people – the very thing that young adult carers aged 16-25 can find hard to maintain.
It was with this in mind that Matter (http://youngercarersmatter.org) was created, to counter the isolation of caring. It works like a social media site such as Facebook, while also being a trusted source of advice. It was designed in close consultation with younger carers specifically recruited to help shape it to meet their needs for friendship and information.
Becky Hammerton, 18 from Dorset, looks after her physically disabled mother and her father, who has mental health issues. She said: “being a carer has had a big effect on my social life ever since I started caring when I was eight – while others went to parties and played out I was inside looking after mum and dad. I did start to realize everyone else was doing fun things like going on holidays, but I wasn’t able to go on family holidays because it wasn’t practical for my mum.
“At secondary school I didn’t get to meet up with friends or go to the cinema like the others, but I didn’t have many friends at school anyway because I was so quiet and ‘different’. Even now I don’t get the chance to go out clubbing like most people that turn 18.
“I think that some carers are completely isolated – I don’t think there’s a good enough support network. But I think Matter will give us the chance to get past that isolation and speak to people in similar situations to us.”
The Matter site had been developed by Carers Trust as part of its About Time programme, using funds from The Co-operative, who raised £6m for young adult carers as The Co-operative charity of the year for 2013.
Matt Hall, 18, from Bromley who cares for his brother with autism says: “my caring role has not totally ruined my social life, but it has had an impact. I am not obliged to stay at home and look after my brother, but I feel a responsibility to do so as much as I can.
“If I do go out with my friends I have a sense of guilt that I am not at home helping my family. They always encourage me to enjoy myself and see my friends, but I can’t help feeling as if I should be at home, looking after him.”
On the launch of Matter, Matt said: “It’s vitally important that carers are able to keep in touch with each other from across the country. Although we all have our friends and family, they might not be able to understand the position we are in as carers.”
Michele Lambert, Head of Digital at Carers Trust said: “Support is not always available for younger carers, who are often leading stressful and demanding lives. It’s easy to become isolated and as our survey shows, the social aspects of life can be the hardest to maintain.
“That’s why we’ve developed Matter, which offers mobile-friendly access to advice and information, letting carers share problems and successes and providing a 24-hour, 7 days a week peer support system.”