A YOUNG carer from Frome has spoken about the importance of the county’s young carers support service, as Somerset County Council considers cutting its funding in half.
The young carers currently meet each month at the Vallis Road Youth Centre in Frome, where they receive help and support from team leaders who are trained professionals. If the cuts go ahead, the team of seven county-wide team leaders would be reduced to just two, with volunteers expected to fill support roles.
A consultation about future funding is being held by Somerset County Council, but critics say that it does not contain all the facts, is full of jargon and is being rushed through.
12-year-old Steph Smith has been a carer for her mother, Jennie, for the past four years. Jennie has mobility difficulties and Steph helps her with day-to-day activities and cooking for the family.
Speaking to Frome Times Steph said, “I think the sessions should be kept as they are, if anything, there should be more from the service, not less. The sessions at the youth centre are a chance for all the young carers to talk to each other and share problems. Everyone has the same weight on their shoulders and we all have the chance to chat, with no-one making any judgements.
“I feel very comfortable around the team leader there at the moment. I’m not sure I would feel comfortable talking to a volunteer who had not been trained. Sometimes it is hard to trust someone you do not know.”
Steph’s mother, Jennie, says she recognises the benefits that the group has to young carers. “Steph’s entire attitude has changed since she started attending young carers, it’s a place where she can feel comfortable and talk with other people in the same situation,” she explained.
“For the young carers, this service is vital and a valuable meeting to talk about how they feel, as well as having trained support workers to talk to.
“Part of the problem with this consultation, is that it’s quite heavy going. There’s also no option to keep the young carers service the same and it just feels rushed.”
The budget for the young carers support service is currently set at £140,000. However, in a radio interview with BBC Radio Somerset, cllr John Osman, cabinet member for children and young people, revealed that the budget could be slashed by 50 per cent.
Frome Mendip district councillor, Sam Phripp, who used to be a young carer himself, argues that the consultation has been “rushed through” and believes the proposals are “misleading.”
Cllr Phripp, who represents the Frome Berkley Down ward on Mendip District Council said, “The problem is, cllr Osman has made this statement, but the consultation makes no mention of this budgetary cut, which all does seem very underhand. Families who will be directly affected by this cut are not being given the proper information.
“It’s a vital service for Frome, but there is not an option in the consultation that suggests leaving the service as it is. This says to me that it has been rushed through to find £70,000 of savings. I’m conscious that the same level of care may not be supplied.
“Another issue is that volunteers are expected to pick up the flack. The service that young carers provide involves giving complex emotional and psychological support to vulnerable people. I’m worried that this level of service will not be passed on to volunteers.
“The consultation is full of jargon too, it’s been written with no regard for the readership.
“When Somerset County Council waste £70,000 fighting an enquiry into their library closures, it is a real slap in the face for the families of young carers to have them try and recoup this money from them.
“Politics aside, we need to work together to fight this and make sure that some of Somerset’s most vulnerable families aren’t left in crisis.”
Somerset County Council’s young carers support services was set up to support children and young people aged 8-18 years, who have substantial caring responsibilities at home.
The consultation period for changes to the service, which was launched on the 21st of January, will close on Monday 6th of February.