As well as juggling spending time with his friends and studying so he can go to University, Callum is a young carer looking after both of his parents as well as his two younger brothers, a role he’s had for as long as he can remember.
“I’m 18 now and I’m sure I’ve done it since I was five or six years old,” said Callum. “It’s all I’ve ever known. I’ll be a young carer until someone else takes over. But I don’t think I’ll ever stop. It’s something I have to do. Originally, I stayed in Glasgow but when I moved to Shotts my school recognised I was a young carer and put me in contact with the North Lanarkshire Young Carers project. That was about ten years ago but I’ve been a young carer as long as I can remember.”
The support service that Callum talks about is run by leading charity Action for Children Scotland. North Lanarkshire Young Carers has been in existence since 1996.
It provides care and support to family members who may have a range of needs including disability, mental health and substance misuse. Action for Children Scotland aims to help these young carers across North Lanarkshire by safeguarding their health and wellbeing, supporting them with education, training and employment and increasing their access to leisure, cultural and social opportunities.
Having been supported by North Lanarkshire Young Carers for more than a decade now, Callum talks passionately about the charity’s role in working with him.
“Action for Children has been a massive support for me. I know of a lot of young carers out there who don’t get that support but for me it was a huge part of helping me deal with being a young carer. Whenever I need them, they are always there.”
In recent months Callum has spoken in front of Scottish Government Ministers at Action for Children Scotland events as well as being interviewed in the media.
“Getting more support is crucial. Like the more people that help you then the easier it gets and if you’re unsure there somebody to ask there. It’s not about making easier as such, it’s about helping you to cope.”
“More awareness. My school was aware but I’ve spoken to many young carers whose school didn’t have a clue and with things like homework they were really struggling but the schools couldn’t help them at all. Either they didn’t know the young person was a carer or did know but didn’t appreciate the stress and all the work involved in being a young carer.”
Does Callum have any advice for a young carer that isn’t already engaged with a project offering support to young carers?
“If they are comfortable or feel it would be beneficial they should take part in a young carers’ project. I used to be really shy but the project has helped me come out of my shell.”
Action for Children Scotland works directly with more than 14,000 children, young people, parents and carers each year. With 87 services in Scotland, we are in communities where you live and work. We help transform the lives of thousands of children and young people each year and we’ve been doing so for 60 years. Visit www.actionforchildren.org.uk or follow us on Twitter @actn4ChildrScot.
Callum Thorn is an 18-year-old from Shotts and studies architecture at Edinburgh College.