Don’t cut support for child carers says Secret Millionaire

A MILLIONAIRE businessman has called for child carers to be given more support in the face of severe public sector spending cuts.

Paul Ragan, who cared for his schizophrenic mother from the age of four, said young carers must not be “cast adrift” in the age of austerity.

The chief executive of Cardiff Devils ice hockey team, who appeared on Channel 4 show The Secret Millionaire earlier this year, urged councils to be careful when cutting budgets.
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His comments come as children’s organisations in Wales have spoken of their concerns about the impact of public sector spending cuts on vulnerable young carers.

It is estimated as many as one in 10 children is caring for a sick parent or relative in Wales.

Mr Ragan, speaking yesterday as he announced the purchase of Newport-based Dragon Taxis, said: “It is vital that local authorities trim social care budgets sensibly. There are many young carers in our society who are surviving with precious little support already.”

He also spoke of the experience of meeting 12-year-old Sophie Walker, who cares for her mother who has Huntington’s disease, in Derby, during his undercover stint as the Secret Millionaire.

“It was a very difficult meeting for me to go through with, more so because I’m now a father of four young children,” he said.

“It is totally unacceptable that as a society we leave children to care for their parents without full-time support. Children who care for mentally-ill parents can be left scarred for life.”

Mr Ragan, who was brought up on a Sheffield council estate and cared for his mother until he was 10, added: “I think, as a kid growing up looking after my mum, I shed all my tears as a youngster and now I perhaps have a hardened or tough exterior.

“It is the emotional side I found difficult to deal with during the programme.”

His comments come as the public sector is starting to draw up plans to slash spending in the face of unprecedented budget cuts.

It is feared these cuts will affect the limited number of services in Wales which support young carers and are dependent on local authority funding.

Lynne Hill, a policy director of young people’s charity Children in Wales, said: “The young carers that do access service have very good support, but those who get it probably only make up a small percentage of young carers out there.

“There are a lot of young carers who are either going unrecognised or recognised but not supported. At a time when everyone has to look at their budgets, young carer services and support will be particularly vulnerable to cuts.”

She added: “We can only guess the impact that being a young carer has on someone’s self-esteem and their physical and mental health.

“But it also impacts on their ability to maintain attendance at school and to turn in homework on time.

“It is likely there are a lot of people entering the adult world without the skills and the education they need as a result.”

Yvonne Rodgers, director of Barnardo’s Cymru, said: “Caring for a family member can take an emotional toll on a young person, no matter how much they love their family and want to help.

“Very often a young carer is forced to grow up quickly and the expression: ‘An old head on young shoulders,’ rings true.

“Young carers can often feel isolated because they have less free time outside of school than others their age.

“It is vital the needs of young carers are seen and addressed as well as those of the family members they care for.”