Addicts’ children damaging long-term prospects

PUBLISHED: 07:00 03 December 2010

Christine Holland, general manager of Crossroads Care (left) and Heidi Every, young carers service manager.

Christine Holland, general manager of Crossroads Care (left) and Heidi Every, young carers service manager.

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HUNDREDS of North Somerset children are missing out on childhoods and damaging their long-term prospects because they’re too busy caring for parents with drug or alcohol addictions.

This the stark reality revealed by a new survey which showed the number of child carers in the area could be as much as four times higher than previously thought.

Crossroads Care North Somerset says the statistics – commissioned by the BBC – showed as many as 2,000 young people in North Somerset could be caring for poorly or disabled family members.

Many of these shoulder that responsibility with no outside help, meaning they can become isolated and see their own opportunities in life are restricted.

Crossroads does its best to help by trying to reach these ‘hidden’ carers through a dedicated schools worker – but there is bad news on the horizon.

Crossroads manager Christine Holland told the Mercury the charity is already battling to bring down a waiting list of children needing support, and must now manage a drop in funding too.

Christine said: “The funding for the only young carers schools worker in North Somerset runs out in March 2011

“This is a vital role, as this is the only member of the team who has access to these ‘hidden’ young carers, the ones who have not yet been identified, possibly because they are caring for family members who may have mental illness or drug or alcohol addiction.

“Based on this estimate, we could currently be supporting only 10 per cent of the children with caring responsibilities in North Somerset.

“The fear is that these ‘hidden’ young carers could fall through the net if not given support in time, with huge effects on their health, education, well-being and life outcomes.

“It is absolutely essential that young carers are identified, supported and given back some of the childhood that they are missing because of their caring responsibilities.”

Crossroads is preparing an urgent bid for Big Lottery funding, but already has one high-profile local backer.

North Somerset Council chairman Ann Harley has been a long-term supporter, and said: “The support offered by Crossroads is absolutely vital to the children and young people they currently support.

“However, this is just the tip of the iceberg, and it is obvious that much more needs to be done to identify those ‘hidden’ young carers to offer them the same level of support.”

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