BY JACKIE KEOGH
THERE are up to 850 carers under the age of 18 in West Cork in need of support services – with half of them under 15 – according to a newly published report.
The stark figures were revealed this week by a report into the services provided by young carers.
Dr Caroline Crowley presented the evaluation of the new service – the West Cork Young Carers’ Project – in Skibbereen on Monday.
Drawing from the 2011 Census figures, she said a low estimation puts the number of young carers at 130, with 65 of these under the age of 15. However, she said that figure may be under-reported because international statistics put the number of young carers at between 2% and 6% of the population.
The upper figure would mean there could be up to 850 young carers in West Cork alone.
A grant of €36,500 from the Dormant Accounts Fund allowed the West Cork Carers Support Group – which has been in existence for two decades – to engage a young carers’ development worker, Steve Cameron.
And, over the last 12 months, Mr Cameron has been busy putting support services in place in schools and on social media, and by creating monthly outings to help carers overcome feelings of isolation.
Steve Cameron confirmed that 30 young carers have registered with the service, with ten more due to register shortly.
However, he pointed out that there is a lot more to do if the service is to become accessible to all of the young carers living in West Cork.
In a bid to provide sufficient resources for the service in 2017, he said an application for €10,000 has been sent to West Cork Leader, with a further application for €15,000 sent to the child and family agency, Tusla.
Karrie Slee, who is a carer and the mother of a young carer, spoke at the launch of the report on Monday, saying: ‘This is a much-needed service. It recognises that children are also care-givers in the home and enables them to take time out from the demands and pressures put upon them.
‘They now have somewhere to go and interact with other young carers who share similar experiences and therefore may be feeling excluded from their normal peer group.’
Karrie’s son Cael, aged 11, helps his brother Kai, who has autism.
Cael said the West Cork Young Carers Project has helped him to make lots of new friends.
He said he particularly likes the fact that they have a closed chatroom that allows him to talk to other carers if he is feeling sad.
Another young carer who was interviewed for the report also told Dr Crowley: ‘I feel good about caring now that I am not alone.’
Young carers who want to contact the service should call Steven on 027-53848 or 087-1507347.