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Young people supporting a family member with mental ill health will be helped by a new service being launched by the charity Gloucestershire Young Carers in partnership with the ²gether NHS Foundation Trust (²gether).

40% of young carers in the county between the ages of 8 and 24 are supporting someone with mental illness and according to national research. These children could be more vulnerable than their peers to their emotional health and wellbeing being affected by their experiences.

Now a new service, led by Gloucestershire Young Carers’ specialist worker Kate Moss and supported by ²gether, aims to work with young carers and their whole family to put in place coping strategies and a plan for support into the future.

The process will bring several agencies together with referrals for families coming from various sources including the NHS. Kate will then support the family, working through specialist resources to encourage the family to discuss the issues they are dealing with, understand the illness of the family member and work together to put in place a support plan.

Kate says: “As a charity, we provide a range of support services for the young carers from counselling based sessions to respite groups where they can take a break from their caring roles. However, we identified that there is a need to support the whole family if the impact of mental ill health on the young person is to be reduced. Every family is facing a different challenge, their illnesses will be varied and unique and so it is essential that we work with them to find the right coping strategies for their situation.”

Kate has already linked up with families and expects to reach out to up to 20 during the coming months. As she progresses her work with the families she will establish a ‘handover’ to other appropriate agencies for more long-term support.

She says: “In many cases my colleagues from ²gether will work alongside me or we may identify that there are other agencies that can offer appropriate support into the future.”

The aim of the project is to ensure that a focused service is put in place and that the young carer is at the very heart of this service.

Prof Jane Melton, Director of Engagement and Integration at ²gether welcomed the initiative.  She said: “Families that are affected by mental health problems may need specialist support from a range of different agencies.  We are extremely fortunate in Gloucestershire to have a multi-agency approach that considers and cares for the needs of the whole family”.