In the beginning
Romsey & District Young Carers ("Romsey Young Carers") began in 2004 as a project under the banner of Romsey and District Carers Forum. Mary Ward was appointed as coordinator. Romsey and District Carers Forum is a charity supporting adult young carers and there was concern over the number of children and young people in Romsey who were carers.
Romsey Young Carers started with outings and a monthly club for young carers aged 5-12 years. From very early on, the organisation offered a voluntary befriending scheme giving one-to-one support for young carers in the most need.
The clubs proved a success and were soon changed to fortnightly. Throughout the early years the club leaders were all volunteers, as were the other club helpers. Without the volunteers' continued hard work and support the clubs would not have flourished and grown as they have.
Over time the young carers grew up. Instead of losing young carers when they turned 12, Romsey Young Carers set up a senior club to cater for the older ones. This was also fortnightly event run on alternate weeks to the junior club.
In July 2009 Romsey Young Carers received funding from Children in Need enabling the organisation to take on a new staff member who would act as a full time Assistant Coordinator and Activities and Outings Organiser. We happily recruited Tim Ballantyne who started in September 2009, giving a fantastic new lease of life for the two clubs.
In September 2009 Romsey Young Carers launched as a separate charity with a fun day and barbeque for our volunteers, young carers and their families.
A further club
In July 2010 it was decided that in order to meet the different needs of the young carers, a new club was needed to support the 9-12 year old young carers who had started to get lost a bit between the two existing clubs. Although, like the senior and junior club, its aim is that of providing activities and fun, it also has the important role of acting as a support during the young carers’ transition between primary and secondary school.
After a couple of enjoyable summer activities, the club held its first meeting in September 2010. This “Stepping Stones Club” continues to meet fortnightly.
In May 2011 Romsey Young Carers joined with other young carers groups in Hampshire for funding from The Big Lottery. This has enabled the organisation to employ Keren as our Schools, Clubs and Activities Coordinator. Both she and Tim are working with schools; providing informational assemblies, staff training and drop-in sessions. We have also been in contact with our local colleges, making them aware of young carers.
In May 2012 Tim took over as the Manager, with Mary staying on as Families and Befrienders Coordinator.
The organisation has continued to reach more young carers in Romsey and Southern Test Valley and to expand the support it is able to offer. In June 2013 Ruth Day took over as Families and Befrienders Coordinator, with Mary reducing her hours and then retiring at the beginning of September 2013. Chris Hall was an addition to the team in July 2013 as the Clubs and Activities Organiser.
Moving On and school support groups
In 2013 it was seen that there was a need for an older group for those young carers at college and entering early adulthood. Romsey Young Carers responded by setting up the Moving On group for young adults up to the age of 25. The group meets up on a monthly basis for enjoyable activities and mutual support.
Keren has recently been involved in setting up a regular support group at each of the local secondary schools. As well as reaching young carers who already attend Romsey Young Carers' clubs and/or outings, the support groups are also able to reach young carers who have not been involved with the organisation previously.
The Young Carers' Forum, a place where representatives from each club meet to put forward their views on how Romsey Young Carers should develop, first met in January 2014.