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Tuesday, 02 September 2014

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Hectic schedule means young carer struggles to find time for herself

For 18-year-old Kayleigh King, finding time for herself is an uphill struggle.

Kayleigh King photo
Kayleigh King

While most teenagers are out with their friends enjoying everything life has to offer, Kayleigh is doing the housework and looking after her younger brother and sister.

Her caring responsibilities started when she was just 11 years old, after her sister Amelia, now eight, was born with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and her brother Callum, 14, was diagnosed with autism.

Kayleigh took on her demanding responsibilities due to her mum Deborah working part-time and dad Andrew often being bed-ridden with arthritis.

As a young carer her daily duties for the last several years have included doing housework and looking after her siblings who require almost constant attention. She balances that with her studies and a part-time job at Center Parcs near Penrith.

She’s telling her story to highlight the hidden sacrifice of young carers across Cumbria and to support The Cumberland News’ Give Them A Break campaign.

“I have to make sure the house doesn’t go into meltdown,” said Kayleigh, of Kirkby Thore, near Penrith.

“Amelia has a tendency to run away so we need to keep an eye on her. Usually in a morning I will get up early, mum will get Amelia ready and I will do some housework. I then pick her up after school, make sure she has eaten so she can take her medication. Then I just have to keep an eye on her.

“Sometimes it is difficult but it is something I have to do, it is something that has come naturally. It was just normal for me.

“Callum was only diagnosed with autism recently but the family knew there was a problem for many years. It is really hard when they are together in the same room as he likes to control things but my sister is very active. It is tough when I have to look after them.”

School life hasn’t always been easy either.

At one point, with Kayleigh and her brother at the same school, although it wasn’t her duty to look after him there, she often found her own schedule disrupted because of him.

She said: “It was hard for me at school because I struggled to get time to do my homework and revision. My sister and I share a room so we had to keep her out while I did what I needed to do, which isn’t easy. I would try and sit down to do some work but had to constantly get up because my brother and sister were fighting. I would sometimes take my revision stuff away on the young carers’ bus trips because it was a good time for me to do it.

“At school, kids would tell me; ‘Callum has done this or that’. I felt it wasn’t my responsibility but everyone viewed it as mine because I was the older sister.

“He got in a lot of fights as kids didn’t understand his disability. People would wind him up on purpose and I would have to step in.”

Despite not having an easy time at school, Kayleigh has managed to battle through and will start at Newton Rigg College in September where she has a place to study childcare. She wants to work with children with disabilities.

“I’m worrying about it happening again when I go to college. I couldn’t carry on at sixth form because I was struggling a bit, always handing homework in late and things like that,” she added.

She has recently completed a health and social care course with Education and Youth Services in Carlisle, where they were able to work around her schedule, allowing her to flourish at both home and school.

Our Give Them A Break campaign aims to raise enough money to send young carers from Eden, Carlisle and west Cumbria on respite breaks. Kayleigh backed the campaign, describing the increasingly rare trips as “the best things” that happen to young carers.

“Going out and going on trips with other people in the same situation that feel the same as you is brilliant and more are needed. You can have fun and not think about life. I loved the trips and making friends,” she said.

Give Them A Break aims to raise around £20,000 to fund days out and short breaks for hundreds of young children. Please help.

Send a cheque to Eden Carers at The Office, Mardale Road, Penrith, CA11 9EH or to Anne Pickles at Cumbrian Newspapers, Newspaper House, Dalston Road, Carlisle, CA2 5UA.

To donate online, go to www.everyclick.com/edencarers.

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