Young Carers program builds confidence and skills

Suncare’s Kerrie Rosemond, Louis Saxby, and Isabel Saxby (young carer)
25 March 2018

Caring for a family member or friend can be challenging, especially for young people whose caring role can impact their education.

“Young people often miss a lot of school because they may need to stay home to provide support or attend medical appointments with the person they care for, or they don’t have time to do homework or assignments because their caring role takes priority,” Suncare Community Services Client Liaison Officer Kerrie Rosemond said.

“As a result, there’s a high statistic of young carers who drop out of school early and don’t finish Year 12.”

Young people can find themselves in a caring role for a sibling, parent, grandparent, auntie or friend who may be ill, frail, has a physical or mental disability, or mental illness.

Suncare is part of a national network of Carer Respite and Carelink Centres which offers a Young Carers program. It supports 50-55 young carer families in the Brisbane North region, focused on building resilience and self confidence in these young people to ensure they are empowered and supported to finish Year 12.

“We have a diverse group of young carers from culturally diverse backgrounds, aged from 8-18, and from different family situations,” Ms Rosemond said.

“Each family has unique needs in terms of how they care for the recipient. We help to identify and support those needs either through the Young Carers programs and/or refer them for additional support.”

This support includes counselling, mentoring, tutoring, day events and camps, as well as financial support for school fees, uniforms, stationary supplies and technology.

“The importance of having an education can make a big difference to a young carer’s ability to achieve what they want when they finish school,” Ms Rosemond said.

“Another reason why their education can suffer is because of stress at home, or they’re not coping emotionally with their caring role. This can lead to lower self-esteem, declining grades, and disengagement with their teachers and peers at school. Even getting to school can be difficult because they may not have enough funds on their Go Card, or their parent may have a disability and can’t provide transport to school.”

Ms Rosemond says she receives a lot of positive feedback, particularly from tutoring support which has seen a significant improvement in grades and in turn leads to increased confidence and self-belief for the young carer.

Events and camps also provide young carers with the opportunity to meet others and share their experiences, especially for those who may live in isolated areas.

“It’s wonderful to see these kids gain confidence, going from failing grades to almost being at the top of their class, having a belief in their ability and then graduating from school,” Ms Rosemond said.

“When they return from camps and events, parents often say how good it is for their kids to have a break, to smile and laugh, make new friends, and participate in activities which they didn’t have opportunity to do before.”

A young person’s caring role can also change over time, as the person they are caring for becomes progressively ill, or is in palliative care, and their situation might be very difficult because of the level of care and time required, so they may need more emotional support during those times.

“A young carer can increase or reduce their engagement in the program depending on how much support they require. I keep in touch with them and make sure they are coping okay while registered in the Young Carers program, so they have the support they need to remain engaged in their education,” Ms Rosemond said.

“Once young carers graduate from school, they graduate from the Young Carer Program. However, we continue to support them through a transition period where they may engage with other organisations such as Commonwealth Respite and Carelink Centres or Carers Queensland Young Carers Program, because they can still be eligible for support as a primary carer.

“We work with Carers Queensland to ensure these young kids have support after finishing school, so they can continue with their career and education goals. For example, we provide information about receiving a carer’s allowance, by encouraging them to seek information and eligibility advice via Centrelink, and also provide support for them with university or job applications,” she said.

“Their general wellbeing and happiness is really important to me, so my role is to provide them with support that can relieve stress and anxiety for them and their families.”

In the past two years, a majority of the young carers in the program have successfully finished Year 12, while others have opted to start a TAFE course to pursue their career goals. 

“Some past graduates from the Young Carers Program have gone on to complete further studies at university and volunteered in international programs overseas. Young Carers gain a large range of skills and work ethic from their caring role, which are important assets to an employer when applying for jobs,” Ms Rosemond said.

Contact the Young Carers program

Suncare Community Services is part of a national network of Carers Respite and Carelink Centres. The Young Carers Program specifically focuses on school aged young carers who are at risk of disengaging from their education due their caring roles at home. After they finish Year 12 they have a six month transition phase before graduating from the Young Carers program where they can be referred to other organisations or programs such as Carers Queensland’s Young Carers Program to continue receiving support while in their caring roles at home. For more information contact Suncare’s North Lakes office on 1800 786 227 or email info@suncare.org.au.

Pictured above left: Suncare’s Kerrie Rosemond, Louis Saxby, and Isabel Saxby (young carer).

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