An estimated 500,000 14-25 year-olds in the UK care for a family member or friend who are ill, frail, disabled or have mental health or addiction problems and cannot cope without their support.
Developed by Carers Trust, the website Matter works like a social media site (such as Facebook) but is also designed to be a trusted source of advice. It lets carers share problems and successes and provides a 24-hour, 7-days-a-week peer support system.
The site was designed in close consultation with younger carers specifically recruited to help shape it to meet their needs for friendship and information and is designed to be mobile phone friendly. The new community is moderated by a Carers Trust online support team.
Matt Hall, 18, from Bromley who cares for his brother with autism said: “My caring role has not totally ruined my social life, but it has had an impact. I am not obliged to stay at home and look after my brother, but I feel a responsibility to do so as much as I can.
“If I do go out with my friends I have a sense of guilt that I am not at home helping my family. They always encourage me to enjoy myself and see my friends, but I can’t help feeling as if I should be at home, looking after him.”
On the launch of Matter, Matt said: “It’s vitally important that carers are able to keep in touch with each other from across the country. Although we all have our friends and family, they might not be able to understand the position we are in as carers.”
The new website was developed by Carers Trust as part of its About Time programme, funded by The Co-operative, who made Carers Trust their charity of the year for 2013 and have raised £6 million for young adult carers.
The money raised by The Co-operative is also being used to award grants to carers’ centres and schemes throughout the UK for projects that help young adult carers make a positive transition to adulthood. They will be providing advice, advocacy, group and 1-1 support, especially in areas such as housing, employment, education and finances.
Details of the first 21 grants, which average £43,000 each, have been announced. In total there will be at least 50 grants awarded over the next two years, directly benefiting over 4,500 young adult carers.
Thea Stein, Chief Executive of Carers Trust, said: “I have been overwhelmed by the success of our partnership with The Co-operative Group and, with the support and enthusiasm of its staff, members and customers. We dared to dream of a transformative year for Carers Trust and for the young people in communities who, at a crucial time in their lives, desperately need our help, support and services – it is with thanks to The Co-operative that our dream is becoming reality.”
The Carers Trust is also looking for corporate volunteers to support and inspire young adult carers. The Take Action & Support programme aims to help young adult carers in taking action to address barriers to their engaging with educational, employment or training aspects of society and support them in doing so. The programme will run from June 2014 to February 2015 and will provide young adult carers with a series of activities promoting personal development, wellbeing and new skills to help support their transition to adulthood whilst recognising that they may have additional barriers relating to their caring role.