A GIRL aged five has been registered as a carer by a county council.
The astonishing youth of some under-18s looking after relatives has been revealed in a freedom of information request which shows the true extent of Britain’s hidden army of child carers.
In Lincolnshire alone there are 1,322 children officially registered as carers. Across the UK at least 700,000 children under the age of 18 take on duties that would normally be expected of an adult, with many more taking on the role in secret.
One such is Isabelle Bull, nine, who looks after her sick mother. She has helped her wash, dress and carry out household chores for the past few years.
Mother Becky, who has suffered from a progressive kidney disease since she was six, is often too tired to move about the house and has to have everything done for her.
She now has 24 per cent kidney function and most days struggles to cope.
Describing what she does for her mother, Isabelle, who lives in Lincoln, said: “I have to move her wheelchair about as she is too tired to move herself most of the time. When daddy has gone to work, I get her tablets and breakfast and make sure that she is up. I often help her into the shower and to wash and dress.
“We do get some help from carers but they mostly come when I am at school and can’t be there to do things for Mummy. I can’t really remember when I started helping Mum but I think I was quite young.
“I have to make sure that she is feeling well but sometimes Mummy has to tell me to stop doing things for her and to go outside and play because I have done enough.
“My friends say they couldn’t do what I do and they think it is very good that I am able to do all these things. I get her tea and then help Daddy cook when he comes in from work, I chop the vegetables while he makes everything into a meal.
“During the summer holidays we are doing a different activity with Mum every day, painting and making things.
“My brother Jack and I stay inside with her as she can’t go out and she gets us to do exciting things but she is very tired afterwards, which is sad.”
Father Andy, who takes work that fits in with his caring duties, said: “I am very proud of Isabelle and what she does for her mother when I am not there, but she should not have to do all that at such a young age.”
Young carers are defined as those under 18 who look after a relative with a physical or learning disability, mental health condition, long-term illness or who are affected by drugs or alcohol.
Helen Wydell, project manager for Action for Young Carers, said: “Young carers are a very special breed of child but they still have a right to a childhood. The majority of the young carers we know of are proud of their role and what they do. We work to make sure that, as young carers, their voice is heard in all situations, no matter how old they are.
“It is vital to continue to support them and we now know of far more young carers than when we started because they used to be hidden.”
Harry Tedder, 14, from North Hykeham, Lincolnshire, cares for his father who has a brain tumour. “Action for Young Carers started a youth club which we go to,” he said. “Knowing there are people to talk to is reassuring and it is nice to have a break, but there are other children less fortunate than me.”
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