During the October half term, young carers in Sutton participated in a multi-arts project run by award-winning charity Create. This was designed to give them creative and social time away from their caring responsibilities.

Part of Create’s national inspired:arts programme, the project is working with young people in Sutton aged between eight and 13 who are registered as young carers with Sutton Carers Centre. During half term, they explored animation with Create’s professional filmmaker Aoife Twomey. Objects brought in by the young people from home were brought to life during the workshops, with a football trophy becoming a skyscraper, the backdrop to a story of superheroes and villains.

The project began in August, when the young carers made live-action films with Twomey and minimalist posters with Create’s visual artist Daniel Wallis. The project will continue in early 2018 with ceramics and photography. This diverse range of creative activities is encouraging the young carers to develop a variety of interconnected artistic and technical skills, boosting their self-esteem.

There are over 700,000 young carers in Britain who on average take on 17 hours of caring responsibilities per week. Some care for more than 50. School holidays can be a difficult time for young carers. For many, without school’s daily routine, increased time at home equates to an increase in time caring for a relative.

The Department of Education’s February 2016 Report The Lives of Young Carers in England states: “Holidays were particularly challenging for most young carers due to an increase in their caring responsibilities at home and the lack of opportunity to take breaks to engage in other activities both inside and outside the home.” The research demonstrated how “breaks from caring were seen positively by young carers as opportunities to relax and de-stress, enabling them to return to caring responsibilities feeling refreshed. Young carers who had experience of young carers projects, outings and respite holidays were typically very positive about such opportunities to take a break away from home and to meet others in similar situations.” 

Create’s inspired: arts programme develops an environment in which both creative and social skills can be nurtured and young carers are able to come together to channel their creativity collectively. By working together, the young people develop their communication skills and create peer-support networks. Each series of workshops in Sutton culminates in a sharing on the last day of the project, to which the young carers’ families and guardians are invited. This opportunity to share their work strengthens the young carers’ confidence and the supportive relationships developed during the programme.

 Create’s Co-Founder & Chief Executive, Nicky Goulder, said: “Participating in creative activities is a great way of expressing yourself and socialising. School holidays can be a period of heightened responsibility and isolation for young carers and it’s important for wellbeing that respite is found away from their duties as carers.  Our inspired:arts programme offers an environment for self-expression, socialising, building confidence and having fun. I’ve loved seeing the results of their collaborative work!”

 Sutton Carers Centre CEO, Rachael MacLeod, said: “There was excitement amongst Sutton’s young carers as we looked forward to hosting Aoife this half-term. We are thrilled to have yet another opportunity to work with the exceptional Create team.”

Kate (not her real name), a young carer who took part in the animation workshops, said: “In the workshops there’s no limit to the imagination whereas with workshops in school there is. My ideas were listened to which made me feel better about myself because normally I don’t feel that great about me. Normally I don’t share my ideas but I’m feeling more confident about doing it now. I like writing plays and stories so in the future I could buy clay and make my own animation. Meeting the other young carers was also great. We all listened to each other and let each other have a turn.”

Create’s work with young carers has been the subject of an award-winning animation produced by Bournemouth University film students, as winners of the Kingston Smith 2016 Creative Vision awards:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0gvG1iO8d-s

inspired:arts Sutton ran from 15-23 August 2017, 23-24 October 2017 and will continue on 13-15 February 2018 and 10-11 April 2018.