Megan's experience growing up as a young carer
Megan* has been caring for her mother and younger brother Ben since the age of eight, when her mother began self-harming.
By the time Megan was nine, she was doing the family laundry, making Ben’s dinner and preparing his packed lunches for school.
Megan's mother was eventually diagnosed with severe depression and she began drinking. She would regularly disappear from home or remain in her bedroom. Life dramatically changed for everyone.
Megan’s priority wasn’t her schoolwork or playing with friends. Her role was to look after everyone: cook dinner, dress her brother, bandage her mother’s wounds. Everyone relied on Megan.
At the age of 11, social services referred Megan to a Barnardo’s young carers service where she was introduced to Wendy, her support worker. Megan was terrified. She didn’t understand what was happening and didn’t even know she was a young carer. Wendy said: "When I first met Megan she wouldn’t speak to me, the most I got was a little smile or a nod."
The two met regularly and talked about Megan’s feelings. Megan eventually began to trust Wendy and open up. Her self-esteem grew and she started looking forward to their meetings.
Megan started attending group sessions with other young carers, where they were taught anger management techniques, how to identify and cope with being bullied, self-esteem development, coping strategies and how to keep safe.
At first, Megan found it daunting having to participate in group ice-breakers and share her feelings, but she quickly started to relax and found she enjoyed meeting other children and young people who each had a story to tell. She soon made some good friends who understood her.
A bright future
Megan is now a member of the Young Carers Council and the Newsletter Group, helping inform professionals about young carers’ needs. She’s met with local councillors, children’s services and schools to educate them on how to identify and support young carers.
Megan's mother is now living in a secure unit and the family visit her weekly. They talk and play games and get to spend quality time together as a family.
Wendy, Megan's support worker, says: "Megan is amazing, inspirational, resilient, a role model. I can’t put into words how proud I am. It’s extremely important to provide vulnerable children with someone to turn to. It can be a lifeline. It can make all the difference to their life."
Megan is now 18 and at university. She wants to become a maths teacher and continue to help others.
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*Names have been changed and models have been used in order to protect identities.