I've worked for Carers Trust Tyne and Wear for many years and know the amazing work that they do for young and adult carers across Gateshead. Coronavirus has had a big effect on our income this year. Competition for grant funding has increased and our ability to fundraise has been reduced. I'd planned to do the Great North Run for the first time this year. With the event being cancelled, I've decided to run the equivalent distance in my local area.
Carers Trust Tyne and Wear provides skilled and compassionate staff that can take over the caring role so that family carers can have a much needed break. For young carers, they provide services that include social activities, emotional support and opportunities to develop resilience and practical skills. I've been privileged to spend more than a decade working with carers, particularly children and young people. I've seen how a break or some additional support at just the right time can enable people to cope with highly challenging circumstances.

There are thousands of people in Gateshead that give their time and energy, for free, to support friends and family members who are ill, disabled, frail or living with an addiction. The role is physically, mentally and emotionally demanding. Carers often go without any additional support for themselves. Many have their own physical and mental health issues, give up employment to care full- time, and often face loneliness and isolation. Young carers can take on any of the caring role that we might assume only an adult would manage, such as dealing with bills, administering medication, emotional support and helping someone to wash and dress. They face the extra challenge of keeping up with schoolwork and trying to maintain friendships.

The impact of caring is well documented, with Carers Trust and other charities carrying out extensive national research and consultation. They have identified that:

• Half of young carers aren’t recognised or supported at school. 68% are bullied and they miss or cut short an average of 48 days per year.
• 79% worry about approaching adulthood as they feel there will be no support for them.
• In young adulthood, 45% report having mental health problems and they’re significantly more likely to drop out of college or university than their peers.
• Carers providing more than 50 hours of care per week are twice as likely to report ill health as non-carers.
• Carers providing high levels of care are associated with a 23% higher risk of stroke.
• 2/3rd of people with dementia live at home, mostly supported by family carers.
• 65% of older carers have a long-term health problem or disability. Most say that being a carer has adversely affected their mental health.
• 1/3rd of carers have cancelled personal medical treatment because of the demands of their caring role.
• Carers face significant financial hardship through unemployment and lack of awareness of benefit entitlement.

Locally, our own consultation with young carers identifies that:
• More than 40% miss at least one meal each day.
• Most experience regular health issues associated with stress and anxiety.
• Half have problems sleeping, with 20% sleeping only 4-5 hours a night.
• 40% have an hour or less to relax per day.
• Young carers experience a cycle of worry about family and schoolwork that affects sleep and their ability to perform academically.
• They experience stigma from an early age due to low income or their family’s ability to provide similar social opportunities to their peers.

Adult carers in Gateshead face similarly challenging circumstances:
• 90% report that caring affects their general health
• 57% have a long-term health condition
• 38% of people aged over 65 provide more than 50 hours of care per week
• There are more people with dementia and mental health conditions in Gateshead, supported by a family member or friend, than the national average.
More recently, Carers Trust's research has highlighted the huge impact that coronavirus has had on young and young adult carers. Many children have been caring for an additional 30 hours per week and have reported that their mental health is worse, they feel more stressed and worry about their future.   
I hope that, should I become a carer one day, someone will be ready to give me a hand when I need it. In the meantime, I'm extremely proud to be running for Carers Trust Tyne and Wear.

Anthony Lea