Published Thursday 1 August 2019 at 13:09
Young people from Blackburn who are helping to care for family members are to be featured in an ITV documentary with former Eastender’s star Ross Kemp.
The show features Ali (6) and Lizzie (16) from Blackburn – who help their families living in challenging circumstances.
Ross and the ITV team were keen to lift the lid on the issues facing young carers and their families after a 2018 survey by the BBC and the University of Nottingham estimated there to be as many as 800,000 secondary school pupils acting as young carers in England.
Six-year-old Ali and 16-year-old Lizzie gave the former Eastenders star a glimpse into their daily lives, with Ross even staying the night at Lizzie’s house to see how she cares for her mum and brother first-hand.
The episode is part of a new series for ITV called Ross Kemp:Living With… in which Ross meets people living with some of the biggest issues affecting Britain, with Ali and Lizzie highlighting the reality faced by many young carers today.
Ali and Lizzie are both supported by Child Action Northwest (CANW), a regional charity, commissioned by Blackburn with Darwen Council, which works with more than 6,000 children, young people and families in the North West every year.
CANW works closely with the Council to ensure young carers in the area can access vital support and services.
Cllr Maureen Bateson, Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council’s Executive Member for Children’s Services, said:
The ITV team were keen to come here and work with our services to help raise awareness of the plight of young carers and the issues affecting families and their children.
We very much welcome that and know that more needs to be done to help families and young people who are struggling. We need the Government to hear what our families and young people have to say and invest more into this vital area to support our most vulnerable residents.
Cllr Bateson added:
We have a growing number of children in our borough who have caring responsibilities for a parent or sibling.
This is due to a number of factors, not least due to the wider impact austerity has had on families and the support available to them which is putting more pressure on our children.
However, despite being one of the hardest hit authorities in the country for funding cuts, we have prioritised protecting support for our children and young people who are living in these circumstances to give them the vital support they need.
The service supports young carers in a number of ways, including providing fortnightly ‘chill out’ nights, a dedicated Young Carers counsellor and respite breaks.
The aim of the young carers project is to ensure children and young people with caring responsibilities are supported at home and at school, can meet other young carers and enjoy fun activities.
Kemp’s aim was to immerse himself in situations to gain a first-hand taste of the difficulties faced and highlight what is really going on, often unnoticed, under the nose of mainstream society.
Spending the first day filming with Lizzie, Kemp stayed over at the house to see how being a carer impacts on her daily life from the moment she wakes.
The whole experience was enjoyable, Ross was really understanding and supportive. I’m really looking forward to the documentary.
Ross then visited Ali’s family to see how the youngster helps his parents with his older sister Zainab. Ali’s mum Hanifa said the experience of making the documentary has made her even more proud of her son.
It was a really good experience for all of us,
We decided that more needed to be done to let people know there are kids like Ali out there who have to deal with this in their lives.
Ross was very down to Earth, friendly and easy to chat to – if anything, the whole filming process went too quickly! We wanted Ali to have this chance to get some recognition for the amazing job he does and we can’t wait until he’s older and watches it back. He’s so protective of his sister and he makes us so proud every day.
Sue Cotton, CEO of CANW said:
Child Action Northwest has a close working relationship with Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council to deliver a well-established Young Carers Service. This partnership has developed over a number of years and together, we ensure children and young people with caring responsibilities receive the support they need.
Filming Living With… has been a fantastic opportunity to highlight the amazing job young carers are doing across the country, very often without thinking twice about it.
We hope the documentary will encourage ‘hidden carers’ to come out of hiding and know they’re not alone. There’s always someone there to listen, support and help at CANW.
Ross Kemp: Living With Young Carers is on Thursday 1st August at 7.30pm on ITV.
To support young carers across the borough, text CANW to 70085 to donate £3. This costs £3 plus a standard rate message.