CHUMS Young Carers

The challenges facing so many carers are unrelenting at the best of times. When you’re a young carer there’s even more to deal with. The worries of what might happen to the person you’re supporting, who might be your Mum, your Dad, or a brother or sister. The reduced opportunity to do normal stuff with your friends.

Then throw in a pandemic. Many people have experienced levels of anxiety and periods of enforced isolation totally alien to most of us. For many young people the worries about the health of the person they care for have grown over this period.

This is a reality for many young people. It’s why the charity CHUMS is supporting children and young people who may be struggling with their mental health.

Over the last 18 months CHUMS has been working with Food etc to see if it could help young people to have fun and gain confidence through a learn to cook programme.

The idea was first proposed in early 2020, before the pandemic, and its implications, were understood fully by any of us. After a short delay in the spring of that year as the world adopted new (virtual) ways of communicating, the programme commenced on-line, with sessions conducted using Zoom, the online conferencing website that has featured so prominently in many of our lives since the spring of 2020.

Food etc recommended a programme of six sessions, each lasting around 90 minutes. Up to six young carers were invited to participate. Omi Carter, who helped facilitate the initiative at CHUMS, commented on the initial sessions:

“There was a real buzz during those early sessions. People were a bit shy at first, perhaps unsure how everything would work, but that’s where Food etc’s Julie Clay, who ran the course, came into her own. She’s so good at putting people at ease and making the whole thing fun.”

Children as young as nine, as well as others in their teens, took part in the sessions. Sometimes things wouldn’t quite go as planned, as Omi noticed:

“At the best of times cooking can be chaotic, so when people are communicating over Zoom, of course there will be some confusion. But it just didn’t matter. Over the weeks it was clear people were becoming more and more confident, and simply enjoying themselves.

“For me, the most wonderful thing was seeing kids having fun with a parent or with the person they’re caring for. There were some brilliant, joyous moments.

“There have been really important outcomes too. The participants have grown in confidence, they’ve learnt or developed a meaningful new skill, and they’ve started to assert themselves. When the sessions started Julie was very much leading them. As the young people started to grow in confidence, they started to drive the agenda and decide what they’d cook.

“That’s really effective training, and Julie deserves enormous credit for the way she makes this happen. The sessions first and foremost are fun. But I think they are enormously beneficial. They’ve helped a number of families to remember how to have fun together, whilst learning new skills important for everyday life. We can’t wait to schedule further sessions, hopefully face to face, later this year.”