What is life like for a young carer in the North East today?
While friends are talking about trips to the cinema and buying the latest iPhone, some young people are worrying about sorting their mother’s medication or preparing the family’s evening meal.
Paul and Claire Moore, of Springwell, Gateshead, are looked after by their four daughters, 24-hours a day.
Claire, 36, suffers from borderline personality disorder which means she needs constant supervision. She struggles to get out into the community and finds day to day tasks a huge strain.
While Paul, 51, has severe mobility problems due to osteoarthritis and spinal deterioration which means he is left reliant on medication.
So it is up to the couple’s four daughters to provide the necessary care they both need.
Katarina, 16, Elizabeth, 14, Sonya, 13, and Nattalia, 10, say they do not mind looking after their parents, despite it meaning they do miss out on some of their childhood.
Today Claire and Katarina, of Gateshead, tell their story of caring, and being cared for.
“Waking up in the morning, I wonder if it’s going to be a good day or not. If it’s a good day then I only have to do a bit of tidying up and I can sit and relax.
“But if it’s a bad day, then it means taking my littlest sister to school and picking her up, it also means a lot of work.
“It’s not always bad, though most people couldn’t do what I do on a daily basis, they would complain and say that they should get something for doing it. I never ask for anything in return.
“Being a young carer is hard, yeah, I’m not going to deny it. But what’s the point in complaining every day? Nothing is going to change, my parents aren’t going to get any better.
“At the end of the day, I’m still going to be doing stuff an adult should do.
“I sometimes go to Gateshead or Wrekenton to do some shopping for my mam and dad. If my parents have a hospital or doctors appointment, I would normally go with them for support or just for the company so they aren’t by themselves.
“When I’m out with my mam there is never a dull moment, it’s always about keeping her smiling.
“Every time we go into clothes shops like Primark and Sports Direct we always try on a hat and post it on Facebook.
“With my mam having a mental health problem, people judge her. But if you take the time and listen, it makes being with her so much easier.
“If she starts to panic I act stupid to distract her. I never get embarrassed, what’s the point?
“It’s different with my dad, with him being physically disabled, he can’t really go places with me so I make the most of every day while I’m at home.
“I help my dad to get his medication which is a lot of tablets, as well as an insulin injection. I help him to do stuff like change the bed. There is never a dull day in my life as a young carer.
“I make tea and coffee, I do the washer and dryer, sort the clothes out, and make sure they are in the right rooms. I also cook meals.
“Life isn’t perfect - there are arguments - some are funny and some are serious, but that’s just because I’m the oldest out of four girls .
“At the end of the day, I wouldn’t change my life for anything or anyone, I love my life the way it is.
“I wouldn’t change it, it’s all I’ve known. My parents have been like this all our lives, this is the normal for us.
“We have ups and downs, we fall out, and make up again, but we are always there for each other at the end of the day.”
“I’m a parent with four children who help care for me and my husband.
“Every day is hard, every day brings a new challenge. There are no plans made until I get up first thing in the morning.
“If it’s a good day for me, I only need to be accompanied when I go out, but if it’s a bad day my daughter must come with me and distract me as I often suffer panic attacks.
“My condition means I can’t be physically touched by anyone and I can’t stand to touch others. It’s very hard on the girls, I think, but they’ve learnt little tricks to distract me.
“If I start to panic they act like a fool, or mess about, and we do silly things like skip and dance or even sing in the street.
“Katrina, my oldest, and I have this little ritual where if we are in a shop with hats we try them on and take selfies and upload them. I know some of you will think it’s a stupid thing to do but it really does work.
“On days when I cannot leave the house I make sure my husband is OK and my children do the shop runs for me, they truly are my lifeline. It’s amazing what they do for me, they never wish things were different, they don’t get embarrassed by the way I behave - and they embrace what life they have.
“It’s other people that judge me, they do not take a moment to see who I am and why I behave the way I do.
“I feel sorry for my girls at times. They don’t go out with friends as much as everyone else, they don’t get the latest brand name items clothes or trainers or gizmos and gadgets.
“I feel that if I was a normal mum I could go out to work and supply them with the things they deserve. They deserve the world and more, if I could take a magic pill to be like other mums I would.
“But my children just love me the way I am; a crazy, funny, unpredictable mum. They say no two days are the same, if it wasn’t for them I’d be lost.
“They have a hard life but manage very well and are thriving at school, which is amazing for what they have to deal with at home.
“I’m a mum who suffers from a mental illness - it means I can’t do a lot of things others take for granted like taking my girls to the park, MetroCentre or the cinema.
“If I could give any message it would be, please do not judge a book by the cover; the girl you mock for not having the latest brand name clothes, or best laptop, or iPhone is, along with her sisters, is helping look after her disabled parents.
“Young carers are the strongest, most reliable people I know, and I know this because all my girls are young carers.”
It is estimated that 244,000 people under 19 are carers - about 23,000 are under nine.
The Children’s Society believes this is likely to be “the tip of the iceberg”.
Girls are slightly more likely to be carers than boys. Among 15-to-19-year-olds, about 5% of girls are carers and about 4% of boys.
The Children’s Society is calling for more Government support and recognition for these young people.
It says in England, one in 12 young carers spends more than 15 hours a week looking after a parent or sibling, that one in 20 misses school and that they are 50% more likely to have special educational needs or an illness.