Young carers need more support, says Norfolk teenager who looks after her mother

Charlea Medcalf, 16, has cared for her mother since she was six years old. Photo: Norfolk Family Car

Charlea Medcalf, 16, has cared for her mother since she was six years old. Photo: Norfolk Family Carers - Credit: Norfolk Family Carers

It is a time when everyone should get a chance to put their feet up, spend time with others and enjoy the festivities.

But for teenage carers like Charlea Medcalf, who since the age of six has cared for her mother, Christmas is one of the most difficult times of the year - when they find themselves taking on an even greater burden.

The responsibilities for Charlea, now 16, are so great that she has to wrap her own presents.

And now Charlea has called for more government support for young carers.

She said: 'I don't have much of a social life - I'm either working, studying or helping my mum.

'I have struggled with my mental health over the years.

'I wish politicians would give more of a chance to people like us - we're seen as minorities but we could really do with more support.'

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Donna has serious health conditions which have resulted in her having multiple operations. Charlea helps her mum by cooking, cleaning and doing other housework, as well as providing emotional support.

For the first time this year, they will be spending Christmas Day just the two of them.

Charlea said: 'I'll be doing the shopping this year as the weather has been so bad it's dangerous for my mum to go out.

'I just have to make sure everything is sorted for Christmas.

'I'll be wrapping my own presents too, like I do every year.'

The 2011 Census found more than 5,700 carers under the age of 25 living in Norfolk, although the true figure is thought to be much higher.

Charlea, who studies politics, philosophy and photography at City College Norwich, regularly attends Young Adult Carers Drop-In Sessions, hosted by Transitions, a project aimed at supporting people like Charlea.

Transitions is part of the Big Lottery-funded Young Adult Carers in Norfolk which offers one to one support for 16 to 24-year-olds by providing advice, workshops and just someone to talk to.

If you know a young person who is looking after a family member or friend who would benefit from some additional support, call Transitions at Norfolk Family Carers on 01603 219924.