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Real story: Sam

Sam is a young carer.

In many ways he is a typical 14-year-old, with a passion for science fiction, particularly Isaac Asimov. Next year he hopes to start A-levels in maths and science.

But unlike most 14-year-olds, Sam spends much of his time helping out his mum who has multiple sclerosis and chronic fatigue syndrome. And when he isn’t looking after her, Sam spends a lot of his time worrying about his mum.

Before and after school, he helps mum by making sure she’s taken her medication, making her food and cleaning up the house. He’s been doing this ever since he was old enough to help.

Big move

In 2006, Sam and his family moved from Nottingham to Norfolk. Sam suffered from panic attacks because he didn't like leaving his mum, and was too anxious to go to his new school.

Sam says: "Caring affects my school work quite a bit. I didn’t go to school for quite a few months before I moved. I worry a lot about my mum and if she's ill or in hospital then I can't get on with my school work. I'd rather be at home."

Fortunately for Sam, his teacher Mrs Scott, who manages the Learning Support Unit at his new school, put him in touch with the Norfolk Young Carers Project. The project teams young carers up with a project officer, who they can call on at any time.

Sam has worked with his project officer, Katie, since January 2009 and he feels that he can rely on her when he is feeling down about mum.

"It really helps me that I know Katie so well as I struggle in front of people I don't know," he says, adding that since being involved with the project, he's had 100% attendance at school.

Helpline

The project runs a confidential helpline for young carers from across the county. Young carers can ring to talk about things that are bothering them, to ask for advice about how to talk to their teachers about caring, or advice on where to go for help. They can also use it as a way to just get things off their chest.

Sam thinks the helpline is great. He says: "If I'm just having a really bad day I can call the helpline and it's good to know you've always got someone there - some form of backup. The helpline is great for people that don't get the support that I do."

Katie says there are lots of young carers in Norfolk who are not known to the project. “We're a very limited source and the helpline is fantastic as Sam and other young carers can access it whenever they need, if workers at the project are not available."

Sam says his quality of life has improved since he got involved with the Norfolk Young Carers Project. "It makes life a lot easier when you know you've got the support and a friend you can speak to. It's just knowing it's there. But we need to get the word out there to people who don't know about the helpline."

Making new friends

Through the project, Sam started going to meet other young carers and make new friends in the area. He found that meeting other teens who understood his home life gave him more confidence.

Sam even designed the poster used to advertise the helpline. He has also interviewed a new participation worker for the Norfolk Young Carers Forum.

Call 0808 141 0332 to speak to an adviser from the Norfolk Young Carers Helpline between 8pm and 8am Monday Friday. The helpline is free, confidential and won't show up on the household phone bill.

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