[Sub ID 4876] Peer Support Champions (Carers ACT)

Submission ID: 4876
Organisation name: Carers ACT
Contact name: Ms Lisa Kelly
State: ACT
Contact email: lisa.kelly@carersact.org.au
Contact number: 0262969970

Which priority group of the Try, Test and Learn Fund does your idea support?
Young carers

What need or issue are you trying to address?
Carers ACT has been providing a range of supports to young carers for more than 10 years. During this time we have observed that young people who are in a caring role often struggle to form an identity outside that of being a carer. This in turn limits their view on what they can achieve and is a barrier to reaching their full potential. If all they can see is a future that involves providing care then there is no motivation, drive or desire to strive for anything else. This perspective then makes education/employment and engaging in future planning irrelevant and they disengage.

Young carers need people external to their family and peers to help them form an identity outside of being a carer. They need mentors and supports that encourage them to see themselves as an independent, achieving and thriving autonomous being. Sometimes families also need counselling to enable the young person to succeed outside of their caring role and to be relinquished from this responsibility. In families with disabilities, mental health or chronic health conditions exist their is often limited energy to focus on celebrating achievements, promoting and encouraging success and future planning and thinking. Having a champion in your life who celebrates and encourages you promotes worth and success and sometimes young carers are missing this influence.

What is your idea?
Carers ACT would like to run peer support groups in high schools across the ACT for young carers aged 15-16 years. These groups would focus on working with young people during the identity formation period of their development to provide opportunities to explore ways of viewing themselves in roles that are different to their role as a young carer. During this age period most young people start to form a sense of who they are, what they are capable of, what they would like to achieve and a sense of how to go about achieving this. It is a key time for intervening and helping young people to shape an identity as a worthwhile and able person who has a range of short and long term employment and career opportunities available to them.

These groups would be lead by a paid worker who would act as the champion for each young person and build a strong sense of value and worth in the participants. They would celebrate success, encourage development, support growth and enable thinking about the future and possibilities to form a dream and aspiration. The peer support groups would also provide connection with other young carers and the chance for mutual peer support and encouragement.

In addition to the peer support groups Carers ACT would provide access to family counselling that would work within the family system to identify barriers in attitudes, values and dependence that prevent the young carer from achieving their own goals. This would include future planning to ensure that the ongoing care needs are met without a dependency on the young person to meet these. Sessions would also include development of strategies within the family to reduce stress and enable the young person’s needs to be met and success to be valued and encouraged.