Local people volunteering with the county’s Young Carers Service have won the hugely prestigious Queen’s Award – the highest possible recognition for people giving their time and skills for free to help others.
A young carer is someone who is impacted by the health needs of someone in their family. They may offer their loved ones practical, personal and emotional support, and may have additional needs themselves.
Named the MBE for voluntary groups, the award was created by The Queen to recognise excellence in voluntary activities carried out in the community.
West Sussex County Council’s Young Carers Service Volunteers have won the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, and two of the 40 volunteers will attend a special garden party at Buckingham Palace on Tuesday, 5 June, to accept it.
Volunteers enhance the support offered by the Young Carers Service and make a huge difference to the lives of the young carers by giving them a welcome break, offering them support and a listening ear.
Volunteer mentor Ian Lockwood and transport volunteer Lynda Sample will go to the palace party on behalf of the Young Carers Service, which has been running for four-and-a-half years.
Ian has been volunteering for a little over three years, helping youngsters once a fortnight with practical support and developing life skills.
Ian, from Chichester, said: “Life is challenging for them, many struggle for time. It’s about getting to know a bit about them, not so much their circumstances at home but what they are trying to achieve and how we can best help them. I’m ex-military and work as a commercial director for an IT company so I have different skillsets to pass on.
“It’s a challenge but extremely rewarding to be able to help someone along their path and knowing the knowledge I’m passing on will not only help them now but also in the future.”
Ian helped one young adult carer with autism write a CV which enabled him to get a job, while he supported another with severe dyslexia to manage the challenge of college.
Lynda, from Small Dole, has been driving young carers to a young carers group in Crawley once a week during term time for around three years, where they meet up with other young carers and are able to relax and have fun.
She said: “I drop them off for a couple of hours and then pick them up again and it’s a chance for them to have a break and just be kids again really. I really enjoy it, the three I transport are amazing young people, they just have a lovely way about them.”
Ahead of their visit to Buckingham Palace, she said: “I’m absolutely delighted. I’m really looking forward to it, I feel very lucky. As volunteers we do get to meet up regularly, the Young Carers Service put on a number of dos where we can chat to each, as well as various training sessions, we’re very well supported.”
Many of the young carers want to, and are proud to, support their loved ones and welcome the support of the volunteers together with the work of the Young Carers Team.
Stephen Hillier, Cabinet Member for Children and Young People, said: “These incredible young carers come from all walks of life and despite only being children themselves they dedicate much of their time to supporting members of their own family who rely on them.
“I’m extraordinarily proud of the work our Young Carers Service Volunteers do to make a real difference to their lives in many ways, and delighted that their hard work has been rewarded with The Queen’s award, the highest possible honour they could be given.”
To find out more about young carers and the Young Carers Service Volunteers visit https://www.westsussex.gov.uk/education-children-and-families/young-carers/.