YOUNGSTERS have revealed how they attempt to strike a balance between helping to look after relatives while living the lives of ordinary teenagers.
Five of an estimated 700 in Thurrock spoke to the Gazette in a bid to raise awareness for Young Carers Day on Friday, June 13.
A young carer takes on caring responsibilities for someone in their family whose life is impacted by a disability, long-term illness, special need or severe addiction.
Young Carers Day aims to raise funds, get local schools involved by encouraging them to help those 'hidden' young carers not accessing any support and urges people to wear something yellow for the day in their support.
Bradley Bowers, 13, helps to care for his younger brother, who has global development delay. He said: "It's always nice when my brother does something good. I used to teach him to run and one day he came home from school with a gold medal, which I was really proud about."
Liam Maclennan, 14, has an 11-year-old sister with a rare bowel and ovary disorder. He said: "I get up at 6am every day and I'm ready and in my uniform by 6.45am. I then make my sister's lunch while mum helps her get ready.
"I then come home from school in the afternoons and help where I can."
All these youngsters, including Amy Scott, 13, and Cornelius Vernon-Boase, 17, are involved in a Young Carers programme, which they say enables them to let off steam, meet friends and learn how to cope with the added pressures in their lives.
It gives them a chance, too, to learn from 'veteran' young carers, such as Bradley Herbert, 17, who cares for his younger brother. He said: "Being a part of the Young Carers programme gives a sense of normality. People understand frustrations you might have, what you're going through and how you feel."
Charlotte May, a support worker for Thurrock Young Carers, said: "Each of these youngsters should be very proud of the work they do."