JLS’ Oritse & our “Extraordinary Heroes”!

Well what a couple of days I chose not to be in the office!

JLS founder member Ortise` Williams has praised Lewisham’s young carers as “extraordinary heroes” after spending two days volunteering for us.

During his visit, the singer met a group of very excited young carers, manned the switchboard, put together information packs, and made a home visit to young carer aged just six years old.

I’m going to say that again.

6. Years. Old.

6 years old and caring for a family member.

6 years old with adult responsibilities and adult worries.

6 years old and struggling to balance school work, a social life, the health of the person they look after and also their own health.

The star’s visit came just a day before the Government announced significant changes to the Children and Families Bill. The changes will mean better support for young carers and their families including identifying  why  a young person has had to take on such a  role in the first place.

There are 160,000 young people caring for parents and siblings in England alone and their situation can often go unrecognised by social services. These newly announced changes announced should see a speedier and more effective response from social and support services for young carers.

Carers Lewisham welcome these changes on behalf of the young carers they have been supporting for decades.

The singer was clearly impressed with what he saw. “The way in which Carers Lewisham is able to help so many young people each coping with a very unique situation is unbelievable,” said the star. Every young person’s case is different and this centre is able to deal with all of those individual scenarios.”

Oritse`  found it easy to empathise with the young people he met because he too was a young carer from the age of 12 when his mother was diagnosed with MS. Although he found the role difficult at first, once breaking down at school with the sheer weight of responsibility that was suddenly on his shoulders,  this early life experience motivated him to form the hugely successful pop group JLS  so that he could earn enough money to improve life for his Mum and younger siblings.  “There was nothing like Carers Lewisham available to me, “   he explained. I had to form my own support network. It was a case of fight or flight and I chose to fight.”

As Oritse` has shown with his own success, extreme circumstances can lead to extreme achievements: “I want to highlight the positives of being a young carer. They are learning life skills that most people wouldn’t experience until they are much older,” he explained. “These young carers are coping with extreme responsibilities but these extreme circumstances will make them stronger adults.”  Speaking with great passion, he described young carers as “extraordinary heroes who should be recognised.  It kills me to see young carers who think that it’s impossible for them to achieve their dreams.” His message to young carers: “If you can hold it in your head, you can hold it in your hand.”

Young Carers Service Manager, Philip Mills said Oritse`s visit “will help to raise young carer’s aspirations and improve their confidence. It was also a great opportunity to give recognition to the staff and volunteers for their dedication and commitment to the cause”.

There are over 500 young carers currently registered with Carers Lewisham of which approximately 120 will participate in young carers respite and support services each year.   Lewisham Young Carers services estimates 10% of Lewisham’s current school-age population will become young carers.

Carers Lewisham’s Young Carers Service supports children and young people who are aged between 5-18 years who look after a family member or relative who is  affected by a long- term illness, disability, mental ill health, misuses alcohol or substance misuse or has HIV. The Young Carers Service offers home visits, schools support, term-time drop ins, weekend clubs, one-to-one mentoring, art therapy, holiday activities, advice and information, and access to grants.IMG_1175

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