Kayley Gregory - from young carer to assistant ward managerTwenty-two-year-old Kayley Gregory has been caring for her mum with bi-polar disorder since the age of seven. Kayley knows what it’s like to be a young carer and has welcomed Young Carers Awareness Day, a national day aimed at identifying and raising awareness of the thousands of young carers across Britain who are caring for a sick or disabled family member.

Bradford District Care NHS Foundation Trust will be getting behind Young Carers Awareness Day, 31 January 2019, and will encourage carers to visit the Horton Park Carers Hub with friends or family members to enjoy quality time together on the day. To support young carers the Trust regularly runs young carer support sessions at the Carers Hubs, alongside craft sessions and film club nights.

According to the Children’s Society there are 166,000 young carers (under 18 years) in the UK. Many of these young people are forced to grow up early and miss out on the same opportunities as other children because they care for family members with health conditions.

As a young carer Kayley was supported by the Care Trust’s Horton Park Carers Hub, which opened in 2016 when she was 19. It offered her a place to go where young carers meet to share experiences and develop new friendships.  Kayley also volunteered at the hub when it opened to give something back and show other young carers that they can develop and become what they want to be despite caring responsibilities.

Kayley said: “The Carers Hub made a massive difference to me and to other carers when it opened. For me, just knowing there was somewhere to go and study and have quiet time or go to film nights there made such a difference to me.   Also, a main aspect of caring is being involved with other young carers and learning from each other’s experiences, so it was great to have everyone in the same environment – it helped support us further.”

The Trust runs two more Carers Hubs: one at Dyneley House Surgery, Skipton and one at Lynfield Mount Hospital, Bradford. The hubs are a place for carers whose loved ones use Trust services to meet, recharge their batteries and gain access to free advice and information.

Inspired to help others through her own experience of caring, Kayley went on to train to become a mental health nurse and has recently been promoted to assistant ward manager on Maplebeck Ward at the Trust’s Lynfield Mount Hospital.

Kayley added: “I don’t think I’d ever have gone into this line of work without my own experience of caring.  I was really young when my mum was diagnosed with bipolar, but I knew certain aspects of my childhood were perhaps not the same as other kids my age; although I appreciate caring responsibilities affect so many young people.  The experience has made me into the person I am today, and I feel so privileged to be in a job that I love. I think when you’re put in a situation that you have no control over, you have to make the best of a difficult situation and that’s what I really tried to do.

“I’ve always had a really supportive family and they were there if I needed them, but I always felt like I had to deal with it on my own.  The only person that I wanted was my mum, nobody else compared.  And now I’m very level headed and grounded and fully appreciate how my experiences have shaped who I am as a person. As hard as the experience was I would never have got to where I am today without it, so I’ve got a lot to be grateful for in that sense. I feel that this job was what I was meant to do, I absolutely love it. I see people in similar situations to what my mum was in, and carers in similar situations to what I was in and I just feel so grateful that I can give that bit of reassurance –  I can say to carers ‘I have been in a similar situation to you, so I have some understanding of what it’s like.”

Kayley still maintains her passion for helping others and has volunteered to be a carers champion for Maplebeck Ward.  She attends monthly meetings with carers champions from hospital wards across the Trust, who come together to share ideas on how they can continually improve support for carers.

Kayely added: “It’s absolutely vital for young people to have somewhere to go for additional support like the Carers Hubs.  When you’re so young you don’t always fully understand what’s going on, so it’s good that young people have a place to go now.   Speaking to someone else who may be going through a similar situation can make all the difference, knowing you’re not alone is sometimes all you need. I’m really lucky as my mum is doing really well now, but when I was younger having that time away made a massive difference.”

Isla Skinner, Bradford District Care NHS Foundation Trust Patient Experience Lead, said: “Carers and young carers like Kayley provide valuable support to their loved ones.  We also recognise they are individuals with needs of their own, and that young carers have some specific needs and issues to deal with. We want to do all that we can to support carers through our Carers Hubs and to continue to provide care and support services to families in the district.”

To find out more about activities and support at the hubs visit: www.bdct.nhs.uk/support-for-carers  call the information line 01274 251112 or email carerhub@bdct.nhs.uk