Angie Jones works for Spurgeons Young Carers as Service Manager in Wolverhampton and Deputy Manager for Birmingham and is herself a former young carer. She shares some insights into her work with Natasha Krywald from our Communications Team, also a former young carer.
Natasha: How did you get involved with Spurgeons Young Carers?
Angie: I started volunteering with Spurgeons in 1995, the year that Spurgeons Young Carers began. It was only then that I realised I had been a young carer myself. It just wasn’t something people talked about back then. I waited for an opportunity to be more involved! Meantime I worked in other roles involving young people. I finally joined Spurgeons Young Carers team in 2011, doing school assemblies to raise awareness of young carers. I later became the team manager. I’m responsible for things like health and safety and safeguarding, but I also still provide direct support to some Young Carers because I think it’s beneficial to have some involvement. I love my job!
Natasha: Share a favourite moment!
Angie: Recently we took young carers on a trip to London; we were standing looking up at Big Ben and one lad said, ‘I’ve only ever seen Big Ben on telly. If it wasn’t for Spurgeons, I’d just be at home on my Xbox. Being here has made me realise I want my life to be more than that.’ It’s so heartwarming when a young carer realises that they can have their own life too.
Natasha: Being a young carer gave me a strong and positive identity. Do you find other young carers are more positive about their caring role than other people assume?
Angie: Yes, I’d say so. A Commissioning Officer once asked some of our young carers, ‘If you could take something away from your role, what would it be?’ and they all said, ‘Nothing. This is who we are, this is what we do.’
Young carers have brilliant life skills, but their exam results can suffer because of their caring responsibilities. I wish more schools and employers would recognise their other attributes, like their practical experience, empathy and can-do attitude.
Natasha: What benefits do young people get from joining Spurgeons Young Carers?
Angie: It can be life-changing for a young carer to walk into a room and find everyone there understands what they’re going through. They might not need huge support – for some it’s enough to be able to talk to someone who’s supportive if they’ve had a bad day. Some struggle with self-esteem and confidence and being with other young carers can help with that too.
One lad has social anxiety but he loved to sing, and I was so proud of him when he sang in front of a 1000-strong audience at the national Young Carers Festival!
Natasha: My own school didn’t identify me until I’d been a young carer for three years. What could be done to support young carers sooner?
Angie: Most identification is by schools and social workers, but it’s patchy and needs more funding, and social workers tend to only get involved when a family is already in crisis. It would be great if more young carers could be identified at primary school. Children that age are less self-conscious than teens and more likely to start coming to a Young Carers group and they’ll benefit longer from having those supportive relationships.
But for those teenage young carers who don’t get identified early, more could be done to help them self-identify as such. Our young carers have suggested having posters up in schools and information up on the screens in GP surgeries. I think that’s a great idea.
About Spurgeons Young Carers Services:
Spurgeons delivers support to young people up to the age of 18 who are caring for a family member with an illness or disability in the West Midlands through our Birmingham Young Carers and Wolverhampton Young Carers services.
The Birmingham Young Carers service was a finalist in two categories at the 2019 Children and Young People Now Awards in the PSHE Education Award and the Young Carers Award for its particular focus on supporting young carers looking after a parent with a drug or alcohol dependency.
To learn more about our work with Young Carers, click here.