Gloucestershire Young Carers Twilight Briefing
THOUSANDS of children suffer in silence every day.
It is estimated that there are more than 700,000 young carers in the UK, and upwards of 13,000 care for more than 50 hours a week.
But organisations such as Gloucestershire Young Carers help dozens of youngsters in the county to live a positive, independent life, despite the demands they face at home.
Young Carers held a Twilight Briefing event at Blackfriars Priory, where youngsters had the opportunity to speak out about their issues in front of each other, as well as a variety of different agencies.
During the event, Ruth FitzJohn, chairman of the 2gether NHS Foundation Trust, spoke out for the first time about her own experiences of being a child in a family with issues of substance misuse.
She said: "I do know a little bit about how it feels to be a young carer, and it is our job to make sure it doesn't happen again to another generation."
Mrs FitzJohn, recently appointed as one of four new deputy lord-lieutenants in the county, told the conference that listening to the stories shared by the young carers there had brought her to the realisation, for the first time in her life, that she had been a young carer.
"We didn't use such terminology when I was a child," she added.
She went on to give a brief insight into her life supporting two parents with mental ill health, including alcoholism.
Afterwards she added: "Part of what the trust does is offer hope and opportunities for families to help create a better future.
"I hear many stories of how young carers are unable to lead the lives afforded other young people because of their commitments at home.
"We need to continue to work in partnership, to make reasonable adjustments and help ensure that the impact on the whole family is minimised."
Ele Semadeni, operations manager for Gloucestershire Young Carers, has praised last week's event and also Mrs FitzJohn for speaking out.
She said: "It is good for young carers to meet with people who have gone through similar experiences to themselves and yet have then gone on to achieve, in spite of, and despite, the challenges they faced earlier in their lives.
"In acknowledging that the young carers' own stories inspired her to speak up about her own family life, Ruth has demonstrated what events like the Twilight Briefing are all about – sharing experiences to bring about positive change."
A spokesman for the trust added: "Supporting our service users' entire family is extremely important.
"Through our new partnership with Gloucestershire Young Carers we are able to enhance that support even further.
"A joint project we are working on – the Gloucestershire Family Mental Health Empowerment Project – aims to minimise the impact of parental mental illness on dependent children.
"The ultimate goal is that young carers benefit from feeling less isolated and their parents feel more empowered to talk about and resolve the challenges that they are facing together."