Singer, songwriter and actress Jade Ewen’s story and photograph are part of Hidden: England’s Invisible Young Carers, a compelling exhibition of photos and stories of some of the more than 166,000 young carers.
My dad is blind and partially deaf, and my mum is partially blind and has other health issues that make it harder for her to move around. Despite having parents with disabilities, though, for my entire childhood, I didn’t realise I was something that’s called a young carer. I’m still finding out how that has shaped who I am now. Part of it was the practical stuff like bills and shopping – I can still feel the chill from carrying heavy bags of groceries on a cold evening. But it was also being responsible and worrying about my parents every day.
I have to say, though, that being a young carer has more positives than negatives for me in my life. It made me stronger than I realise. I can get the job done, which is really useful in my line of work – where I have to focus and the hours can sometimes be gruelling. And I didn’t miss out, it wasn’t a bad experience – it helped me overcome obstacles.
An issue for me was that I didn’t know about organisations and we had no extended family. This, combined with the fact that we didn’t have much money when I was growing up. Both my parents were on benefits – which I had to help organise – and we were placed in a flat for seven years that was a total nightmare to live in. Not only was the place damp and cold, but it was really difficult for my parents to move about in it. It was really dangerous. I remember the damp made my school blazer mouldy, and we couldn’t afford a new one – it was really embarrassing.
Being a young carer has made me a more empathic and perceptive person
Singing was my escape though – it was such a form of release. My parents loved my singing, and always encouraged me and gave me as much opportunity to live my life as they could.
Being a young carer has made me a more empathic and perceptive person that I might not have been otherwise. I can relate to people in a way that I think is down to having to care for my parents. I would say to any children or teenagers who are caring for someone that you can’t care for your loved ones if you don’t care for yourself. Don’t feel guilty about getting the support you need. That’s why organisations like The Children's Society and the Young Carers in Focus project are so vital – I can’t wait to see the exhibition.