Year of the Young Person: Tribute to borough's young carers

Sanyu Musoke

Sanyu Musoke leads YUCAN, which champions and helps other young carers like herself - Credit: Sanyu Musoke

Young carers have to mature quickly beyond their years to meet the responsibilities of caring for their loved ones.

This can mean they sometimes miss out on activities and friendship circles, others their age, expect to enjoy.

Newham Council hosted an event on Young Carers Action Day (March 16) to bring young carers together, to acknowledge and celebrate them.

Hasanga Rana, young carers youth participation worker, said: “This is important because young carers are not always recognised for all they do and some people even describe their work as just family chores. However, some young people in our community step up and carry extraordinary responsibility for their families while trying to balance their life at school, college, university and work.”

Young carers are often responsible for the family shopping and cooking, for providing care to an ill family member, administering medicines, attending important medical and other appointments and acting as translators.

Hasanga said: “We know of children as young as six who cook and create the evening meal and other young carers who have responsibility for the care of their younger siblings.

"Being accountable for caring at a young age can, without the proper support, impact upon young people’s capacity to keep up with their learning, thrive in their jobs and can cause isolation from friendships and social activities."

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Newham Council has developed the foundations to support young carers through Carer’s First, Youth Empowerment Services, 0-19 Team, Adult Services, HeadStart, schools, YUCAN and other VCFS partners.

Young  carers are amazing and this is a shout out to recognise the incredible work undertaken by these young people and to let them and their families know that there are services available to support them with advice, guidance and just to have fun!

After finishing university, Sanyu Musoke joined a social incubator called Social Ark and it was through their support that she recognised herself as a young carer and founded her business.

Sanyu said: “Others saw the strength in my story as a carer, and it opened my mind to the importance of the role I played in my parents and siblings lives, since the age of 13.

"I’m from an African background, and family duties are part of my culture, but what I now understand is that I am a young carer and that there are services to help young carers, like me. This is what YUCAN, my Community Interest Company (CIC), is all about - championing and authentically helping young carers.”

Sanyu’s lived experience as a young carer peaked when her father was in a road accident in Beckton, in 2015.

She said: “The accident, that was reported in the Newham Recorder, at the time, changed my life a lot. I had to step back from my education for a year to care for my mum, who needed support, and my fathe,r who had physical injuries.”

Roll forward two years, and Sanyu, who leads YUCAN, said: “We genuinely want to make YUCAN as effective, impactful and awesome for young people, while highlighting and addressing the disparity of young carers from ethnic and working class backgrounds.”

YUCAN’s services are developing to include: co-designing care plans with young carers, providing mentors, respite opportunities, as well as workshops and training to local authorities and education institutions to ensure teachers understand the needs of young carers.

When asked what key message Sanyu would give to young carers (who she calls "forgotten heroes"), she said: “You are not alone, you are amazing and the support is out there and more is coming.” Instagram: @yucan_cic Twitter