Thanks to a Takeover Challenge grant from NHS England, Young Healthwatch Northamptonshire and Northamptonshire Young Carers Service were able to work together with young carers to explore the needs and experiences of young people under the age of 20 who care for someone and help them to make their voices heard.
Their project had three specific aims:
- To recruit young carers to Young Healthwatch Northamptonshire. This would ensure that local young carers who were interested in volunteering would have the opportunity to do so and that the voice of young carers would be heard by local service commissioners and providers.
- To ensure that there was clear communication between the Children and Young People’s workstream of the Northamptonshire Health and Care Partnership (NHCP) and young carers.
- To explore the emotional wellbeing of young carers as a continuation of the previous Healthwatch Northamptonshire project exploring young people’s wellbeing.
To do this Young Healthwatch Northamptonshire invited young carers to Young Healthwatch Northamptonshire meetings, gathered patient stories and completed a survey looking at the emotional wellbeing needs of young carers in Northamptonshire.
They found that including and listening to young carers can add valuable insight to groups such as Young Healthwatch and that their experiences are valuable in helping ensure services are accessible to everyone. Whilst many young carers and non-carers experience mental health and emotional wellbeing difficulties, being a young carer can have an additional impact on mental health, which requires understanding from professionals and support services. Many young carers are far more resilient due to being carers from a young age and naturally developing coping strategies beyond their years.
The collaboration with Northamptonshire Young Carers Service has ensured that this project has been successful and will continue so that future work is more sustainable. Northamptonshire Young Carers Service helped with the identification of young carers, transport, venues, refreshments and staffing, and supported this project at all stages. This enabled them to better communicate with young carers and make involvement even more accessible to young carers in Northamptonshire. Working together has enabled them to forge relationships with staff, young people and their services. This will ultimately mean that the voice of young carers will continue to be heard in future projects and across the healthcare systems in Northamptonshire to drive positive change.