Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

Newry mum calls for more support for young carers – “our forgotten heroes”

A Newry mum and her 10 year old son have sought to highlight the need for increased support for young carers in the north by sharing the story of their own struggle with the demands of a household caring for children with a disability.

Young Alex Tavey is one of around 6,500 children under 16 in Northern Ireland who help care for their families. He and his mum Martina, spoke to BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire last week about the challenges the summer can bring to young carers. 

Describing her son as a “little superhero,” Martina told the BBC show that she relies on her him constantly to help with his four year old twin sisters, Zoey and Ruby who both have special needs.  Zoe has severe autism, is completely non-verbal and requires round-the-clock care, whilst sister Ruby has learning difficulties. Seven-year-old brother, Podraig, also has vision problems.

The single mum admits feeling “constant guilt” for the burden her ten year old is shouldering and says he has been her “rock”, taking on extra responsibility at home with his siblings after the break up of her marriage. 

“He’s my rock. Everything I do he’s there with me, he’s my little shadow,” said the proud mum of the P6 pupil, whose support for his mum was recognised earlier this year when he received a Special Recognition Award at the Sunday Life Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards.

“From feeding time, breakfast time, lunch, dinner, appointments, trips in the car shopping, Alex has to be there with me as Zoey is so difficult that I need an extra pair of hands,” she added, calling for more support for young carers like Alex.

“We just feel there should be more support, more time for Alex, a break. During the summer holidays, he’s turning friends away from the door and whilst everyone else is out playing until 7.30 or 8pm, he has to come in earlier to give me a hand to get the twins into their routine for bedtime.”

“So, it’s constant from we get up until we got to bed,” said Martina, who exists on around three or four hours sleep each night due to Zoey’s sleep difficulties. 

Alex gave up his twice-weekly football practice and swimming classes this year to give his mum the vital help she needs with the twins. 

Martina says their home life is a “constant pressure” and that more needs to be done to help families like hers where children are providing care.  

“Alex needs a bit of time with me, a bit of normality, but there’s none of that,” she says.

“Yes, there are fun days when Action for Children Young Carers take him away for one day a month as a wee reward for what he does but there needs to be more for children like Alex. Their childhood is gone I feel.  All we want is a wee bit of normality.”

If you would like help or support from Action For Children Young Carers you can send  a private message to the Facebook page or call on: 028 9046 0500