Young carers in Wales 'lonely' in holidays

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Media captionOliver said he sometimes felt lonely as he did not get to go out and play with his friends during the summer holidays.

As many youngsters are getting out and enjoying the summer holidays - spare a thought for 12-year-old Oliver.

The Bridgend schoolboy is a carer for his nine-year-old brother.

He is one of nearly two-thirds of young carers in Wales who told Action for Children and the Carers Trust that they felt lonely during the six-week break.

"I think it would be nice to go out with my friends maybe once or twice during the summer holidays," he said.

The two charities spoke to more than a hundred carers under 18, and their research suggested that more than a third - some 35% - spend four hours a day or more caring for a relative during the school holidays.

For pupils like Oliver, it means losing an entire week of holiday time over the summer.

Both organisations said there needs to be more support for young people outside of school.

Oliver's brother Leo has a form of autism called Pathological Demand Avoidance, which means he can act impulsively and has an acute "flight or fight" response to everyday situations, said his mother Hayley Davies.

Image caption Nine-year-old Leo has a form of autism that makes him acutely anxious

"Leo's anxiety is so acute that if you imagine yourself in a room in front of 300 people, stood in your underwear, talking about your most intimate moments, and how you'd feel that anxiety - that's probably Leo's baseline," she explained.

It means he will often put himself in dangerous situations to avoid the anxiety - climbing fences, running into roads, trying to get out of windows.

Oliver spends time making sure his brother does not come to harm, and his family said it means he feels he wants to be at home to help.

He admitted that it sometimes left him feeling "restricted".

"We've had some family round which is nice, but they're not as used to Leo and might let something slip that leads to a meltdown," he said.

"Only the other day he was trying to jump out of his bedroom window.

"It's very restricted in the sense that we have to stay in the house throughout most of the summer holidays just to keep everyone calm.

"I feel lonely in that I don't get to go out with my friends throughout the summer holidays, but then I don't feel lonely in the senseā€¦ that I'm always here to ease things around the house."

Image caption Oliver, 12, says being a carer restricts his time with friends

Action for Children in Wales, which offers respite activity programmes to get young carers out of their homes, said it was clear that the summer holidays can be "heart-breaking".

"We see first-hand the awful impact of loneliness and stress on young carers, who dedicate their lives to helping their loved ones," said national director Brigitte Gater.

"These children are often desperate for a break from their caring responsibilities and to have a bit of fun in their holidays with friends - that's why young carer respite services are such a lifeline for them."

The Carers Trust runs term-time programmes to offer support, but said that does not happen when schools shut for holidays.

Chief executive Giles Meyer said local councils needed to step in to offer that help.

"Carers Trust know that too many young carers go without support over the holidays and our evidence shows that being a young carer is a risk factor for their mental health," he said.

Officials at Oliver's council in Bridgend said the family's current support was "under review to ensure that they are receiving the correct level of support required" and added that its Young Carers Worker was in "close contact" with them.

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