Many thanks to Epsom Soroptimist members and everyone in the local community who have supported My Time, because they have and enabled the charity to establish itself as a meaningful, competent initiative. Back in 2012 when the project was launched by SI Epsom and friends to give young carers a chance to have fun and be ‘care free’, eight young people came along supported by ten volunteers. Fast forward to 2018 and there are eighty plus members attending clubs in four locations, supported by forty volunteers – drivers, session helpers and caterers. And we now have a weekly after-school club at Trinity Primary School, Leatherhead. The My Time groups in Ewell, Dorking and Fetcham are really successful and the members range from 7 to 16 years of age. Sessions include all kinds of activities that give the youngsters an opportunity to let off steam, be creative or sporty, learn new skills and above all have fun and meet other young carers. Being a young carer takes its toll on these young people. Some are bullied at school; some fall behind with their homework and studies because of their home situations; taking friends home can be difficult. All these things can lead to isolation. Meeting other carers on a regular basis helps enormously. Members realise that although their home lives are stressful, other young people are experiencing similar problems.
Trips out during school holidays are really popular. Whether it’s a day at the seaside or an adventure park, playing golf, climbing through the trees, visiting farms or sports venues, members have a great time. Everything is free for the young carers, but that wouldn’t be possible without the generous input from the volunteers and funding from local groups and individuals. It costs approximately £25 to take a youngster out for an event – more in some cases. Tickets and food are expensive. People understand this and because they also empathise with the needs of the children, churches, clubs and businesses are really generous in their financial support for My Time.
It is estimated that there are in the region of 14,000 young carers in Surrey. These young people not only cope with practical jobs at home that are usually associated with adults, they also have to deal with high levels of stress. Living with parents or grandparents who are disabled or suffering ill health – physical or mental, often makes them worry about the future. Sleepless nights, stressed parents and chaotic home lives because of the behavioural problems of siblings, can make everyday a challenge. It is well recognised that young carers perform less well at school – underachieving both academically and in their future careers. There are concerns too, that many are vulnerable to outside influences. Thank goodness more and more local authorities and communities are becoming increasingly aware of this.
The My Time for Young Carers’ Board of Trustees hopes that there will be more My Time clubs set up by community groups in other parts of Surrey. The Trustees have the experience and Terms of Reference in place to enable them to launch new projects. They hope that with other like-minded people, they can reach more young carers who could then enjoy a little respite and have some fun that they so richly deserve.