“Not everyone has a bath” – Kate* (18)

We’re supposed to be excited about the future while we’re young, right? Then why is it so difficult to for so many of us?

I’m 18, I’m supposed to have my whole life ahead of me, but I’m so afraid of making the wrong choice and messing up my future. As everyone else around me, I worry all the time about money and how I’m going to make it work until next week.

I’ve worked throughout the pandemic, and I’m still struggling. Working in a shop, people said we were heroes and what a great job we were doing. But I was going in scared every single day. If people didn’t wear a mask, we couldn’t challenge them or ask to put one on, or walk away or anything. It made me so paranoid, always worrying that if I get covid, people I love will be in such great danger.

As a young carer, I’ve got a group I normally go to every week. It moved online really quickly, but it wasn’t the same. This is my safe space, where I go to take a breath from my responsibilities at home. I couldn’t face being online for this too, I needed to get away and I couldn’t. I was going to school online and it was just too much screen time. I wish my school asked me how I was doing, in a more flexible way, not just to tick boxes.

All this has taken a toll on me. I’m lucky I have some professionals here to help now, and I love them to bits. But in the past I’ve also felt I’ve been taken advantage of. I know it’s hard to get funding from the government, and I’ve helped out different organisations to talk to funders, but I felt used when they didn’t provide the proper support I needed. I felt pressured into making presentations to lots of people about my caring responsibilities when I have anxiety and wasn’t given much help.

We need professionals to listen to us. I know what I need and I asked for it – one to one support, not just a residential once a year. I now have a wellbeing practitioner that I’m working with and that’s so much better.

I’ve also found that healthcare professionals judge me based on how young I am and how I look. I’ve been caring for my dad since I was 12, I know what I’m doing. Once my dad was in pain and when I phoned the ambulance, they didn’t believe me. They wouldn’t come until I called my nan, despite us being in crisis. It’s not OK, we were in need and I wasn’t listened to just because I’m young.

Medical professionals assume that the person being cared after knows best. I'm sat right there, I am the one who's been caring for my dad and they rarely talk to me. When I go to hospital appointments with him, sometimes they ask me to get out of the room. Don't belittle me just because I'm young. 

In the pandemic, I had to go to the shops during the hour for NHS and carers. They looked at us and said my dad looks alright in his wheelchair and I could be anyone. They wouldn’t let us in despite my Carer Card. The same when I got my vaccine, I got asked so many more questions and I felt judged unfairly. I am a carer and I am valid.

What I’d really like professionals to know is: not everyone has a bath. There are all these assumptions people make about me. Like I'm told by teachers, social workers, friends whatever, go and relax, have a bath. I don't have a bath, I only have a shower. I also can't just go out and do things with mates or family or what not. I have a dad to care for, I have very little money, I can't go have a stroll in nature every weekend. I have responsibilities people just assume I don't have because I'm young. Life's not the same for every young person. I don't have the time and energy to do what others, more privileged, take for granted.

Moving forward, I’d like to see young people treated more equally. The most useful thing the government could do is to put up the minimum wage for young people. You can’t survive on £4.62/hour. The reality is some of us need to support our families and pay council tax, pay rent and feed ourselves. We've got a lot of responsibilities. We want jobs and when your contribution is valued so little, what incentive do you have to go and work?

I see people every day around me who are stuck in poverty. It all starts when you’re young. It’s unfair when you’re not given the same opportunities as others when you’re starting out. It’s unfair we don’t get an equal wage, just because we’re young.

Kate now has a Wellbeing Practitioner and is part of our Young Carers Group. This article was first published in Children and Young People Now magazine.

Read the article here



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