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Teen raises awareness of supporting black carers

PICTURED: Marisa Olusemo

A TEENAGER from east London is raising awareness of the support available to young carers from black African and black Caribbean communities in the UK in Carers Week, which begins today (Jun 10), after she was helped by children’s charity Barnardo’s.

Marisa Olusemo, 15, who lives in Goodmayes, is a young carer to her mother, Jacqueline who has diabetes. She was referred to Barnardo’s Young Carer service, run in partnership with Redbridge Council, shortly before Christmas in 2018 by her school. At the time, Marisa was experiencing a lot of mental anxiety due to her caring responsibilities and badly needed support.

Olusemo said: “I was having breakdowns at school and there was a moment when I couldn’t stop crying. I started seeing a counsellor at school who recommended that I access the Young Carer Service. They could see the amount of help I was providing to my family at home and said it could help.

“My mum uses a wheelchair so I have to help out around the house with everyday tasks which she can’t do herself such as going to the toilet. She has Type II diabetes and has to take insulin and monitor her blood sugar levels regularly.

“Last year she had to have her left leg amputated below the knee due to an infection which was made worse because of her diabetes. She’s also had several of her toes amputated and has recently been fitted with a prosthetic leg. She is learning to walk again”.

Marisa’s mother, Jacqueline, has been living with diabetes since her daughter was born. In recent years, the condition has become harder to manage, resulting in long stays in hospital and several operations. Diabetes disproportionately affects black African and black Caribbean communities in the UK.

“My mum was looking after herself so well, but she still managed to get an infection and ended up losing a leg due to diabetes,” said Olusemo. “I’ve had to make sure that I have a basic knowledge of the condition and know how to help her as she can become unwell really easily”.

Each Tuesday, Olusemo is among several young carers to visit Barnardo’s Young Carer Service at its Wellbeing Hub in Ilford. The hub provides a vital space where young carers can get support and talk through any problems they are experiencing.

Barnardo’s Chief Executive, Javed Khan said: “All children growing up today face challenges, but it’s even harder for young carers, who have to juggle homework and making friends with caring for sick or disabled family members.

“Barnardo’s services help to reduce the burden of caring on children, by giving them opportunities to take a break and enjoy their childhoods. Our latest report highlights how BAME young carers are often ‘hidden’ from services and are even less likely to access support.

“Young carers are often proud of the support they give their families, but as a society we must make sure this is never at the expense of their education, their wellbeing, or their future.”

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