The Young Carers Project is run by Tower Hamlets Youth Service for young carers aged 8-18 either living or studying in Tower Hamlets. The project was re-launched in Tower Hamlets in 2019 after the previous provision ceased around February 2018.
The project aims to give young carers the opportunity to take a break from the daily responsibilities of being a carer by giving them the opportunity to interact with others facing similar challenges, and taking part in fun activities. The main way this is achieved is through access to weekly respite sessions, activities taking place in the school holidays, access to residential breaks and days out, as well as individual one-to-one support if required.
The weekly sessions are arranged by age group with separate sessions for 8-12-year olds and 13-18-year olds. The young carers are supported to develop their self-esteem and self-confidence through group-based activities and one-to-one support from staff at the sessions. These weekly sessions are planned with the young people and varies depending on their wishes. As a result, the group activities are diverse, including arts and crafts, film making, baking, biking, climbing, and trips to places such as escape rooms. Through ongoing consultations with the young carers, programmes are developed that meet their needs.
Bespoke projects have been developed with external partners which are designed to meet the needs of young carers, drawing on a UK evidence-base. For example, a partnership has been developed with local sports and activity provider, Urban Adventure Base, to encourage young carers to participate in activities that will boost their physical wellbeing, as well as their confidence.
The service has worked in partnership with not-for-profits to pilot participation projects. For example, a short film on young carers is being developed with the charity The Loss Project to encourage the young carers to express themselves creatively as well as to gain media skills which are highly transferable.
The Young Carers Project has an inclusive ethos that means that all young carers, regardless of gender, race, or sexual orientation, feel comfortable engaging with the service. Tower Hamlets has one of the most diverse populations in the country and the Young Carers Project works with multiple community groups to ensure that young carers from all ethnic groups can access the provision. This has been achieved by reaching out to community navigators who have strong relationships with the local people in different wards. For example, a Somali Link Worker and the Bangladeshi Mental Health Forum helped break down cultural barriers around caring and promote the service to more young carers. A relationship and referral pathway has been developed with the local charity Step Forward who work with LGBTQ+ young people in the borough, increasing these young people’s ability to access our provision. This partnership will include developing workshops to promote good mental well-being.
Since the launch of the project, there have been some significant successes in terms of engagement of young people and raising awareness of young carers amongst professionals across the borough. To raise the awareness of young carers and the service, the team has participated in assemblies in local secondary schools, spoken at a forum of local Designated Safeguarding Leads and run a Professional Learning Event in partnership with The Children’s Society.
A challenge faced by the service has been a lack of transport for young carers as a barrier to accessing the service. Feedback from many families emphasised that providing transport would make it easier for them to get their children involved. A transport contract is essential to make sure that services can reach the most vulnerable young people.
The project has not yet completed a full evaluation. However, both young carers and their parents are encouraged to regularly feedback to staff about their experiences with the services. By adopting this whole-family approach, the service is better able to ensure that the family is receiving the appropriate support for additional services, thus preventing them reaching crisis points.
The service is funded by the local authority through Integrated Children’s Commissioning, with further plans to approach third party funders. One full-time and one part-time member of staff are allocated to the project with youth workers based in Limehouse Youth Centre providing support during sessions.
Budget: £65,500 per year
Website: Young carers: support and advice
Contact: Sorrel Norwood