West Sussex is asking again whether you could spare one evening a week to help young carers access the opportunities and support that many others take for granted.
The County Council is appealing for volunteers who can provide young carers with transport to their local youth group during term time.
A young carer is someone who takes on responsibilities at home because someone in their family has a disability, has been ill for a long time, experiences mental ill health, or has a problem linked to drugs or alcohol.
Caring responsibilities can put a significant strain on a young person, affecting their school attendance, achievements and future prospects. Taking part in social activities and meeting other young carers can offer a valuable outlet, allowing them to build self-esteem, make friends and try new things.
Peter Evans, West Sussex County Council’s Cabinet Member for Children – Start of Life said: “Many children and young people rely on mum or dad to get around, but for young carers this often isn’t an option and they end up missing out on the important social interaction they need.
“Thanks to our transport volunteers, young carers can take a break from the responsibilities they have at home, even if it’s just for a couple of hours, which can make a huge difference to their overall wellbeing.”
Julie Baldwin (pictured above) is one of those volunteers, donating around three hours of her time every Monday evening.
Julie said: “I started in February this year and it’s quickly become an enjoyable part of my weekly routine.
“I heard an advert on local radio appealing for volunteers and it sounded like something I could do. I’m so glad I got in touch; it’s really satisfying to know that I’m helping and being thanked at the end of a journey really does feel lovely.
“The young people I transport live in quite an isolated area and there is no way they could get to the youth club without private transport. When they get in the car they often want to talk and talk – about anything and everything – so they clearly need an outlet. And I’m happy to listen.”
Volunteers must have a full driving licence and their own fully-insured car. They will need good communication skills and must be sensitive to the needs of young carers. They will also require a criminal records check with the Disclosure and Barring Service, and must provide two references.
Full training is provided; travel costs and agreed out of pocket expenses will be reimbursed.
Julie added: “If you’re thinking of volunteering but are still unsure, my advice would be to go for it.
“I think everyone is apprehensive at the beginning, and yes, the first journey is quite nerve-wracking, but think positive. Each week is different so just take it as it comes.”
If you think you could help a young carer and would like further information please phone 01903 270300 or email email@example.com. The closing date for applications is Monday June 30th.