A mum-of-six who had to watch her daughter struggle with becoming a carer is hoping to create extra support for youngsters in a similar position.
When Joanne Quinnell, of Thornton, became ill with vertigo, vocal chord dysfunction and central sleep apnoea, her three older children bore the brunt of caring duties. But it was the youngest of those three, Annabelle, who was seven at the time, who found the responsibility really hard.
Joanne said she felt there was very little support and so she has made it her mission to ensure young carers do not struggle like Annabelle.
The 44-year-old has been visiting schools to speak to young carers and is raising funds to hold a Halloween ball on November 1 for the youngsters and their families.
Joanne said: “I became ill nine years ago after giving birth to my youngest son. I didn’t feel right and I began to feel breathless and I would get bad dizziness. My overall condition is functional neurological disorder. I have benign positional vertigo in both ears, which was recurring. I had an operation in my ear which dulled it down a bit, but my balance is still not fantastic.
“I have vocal chord dysfunction which affects my breathing and I get tired if I exacerbate myself, like walking too much.
“Doctors also discovered I had central sleep apnoea, so I use a non-invasive ventilator which breathes for me when my body stops regulating my breathing. I use this when I exercise and that has helped me. I also suffer cluster headaches.”
As a result of Joanne’s various health issues, her husband, Antony, initially reduced his hours as a taxi driver to help look after their six children. Their three older children, Annabelle, then seven, and Tyler, nine, and Olivia, 10, also began to help out with the three younger siblings.
Joanne added: “Our whole lives had fallen apart around us. I was in such a mess and waiting for a pill to make me better. We tried to get emotional support, but I didn’t feel there was any help for my children. I was most concerned about Annabelle.
“It was only recently that we got help from Family Wellbeing Service and HomeStart, which supports families across Lancashire.”
Joanne is now working to provide more support for young carers, and is in the process of setting up a charity under the name Lancashire Young Carers. She has worked with Family Wellbeing Service and Healthier Fleetwood to raise awareness of what support is on offer and has set up a young carers evening with Milton Street Primary School, in Fleetwood. She is also raising money for a Halloween-themed ball at North Euston Hotel, in Fleetwood, on November 1. As part of this, she is hosting a family event on Sunday, October 6, in partnership with Young Minds, Healthier Fleetwood and Wyre Council.
Families are invited to wear something yellow and wheel down Fleetwood prom on a wheelchair, scooter, bike, or pram to raise awareness, with donations to help fund the ball. The event starts at 10.30am.
Joanne added: “My conscience won’t let me not do anything for other families who must be feeling how we have felt. I want to raise awareness and to bring young carers together.”
If any young carers want to attend the ball or seek support, email email@example.com. To donate visit www.gofundme.com/f/72fitz4.
What support is on offer to young carers in the Fylde coast?
Here is what Barnardo's says:
"Barnardo’s carries out assessments for young carers in Lancashire, to ensure the whole family is receiving the right level of care from a range of agencies and reduce the impact of the young person’s caring role. We also provide one to one support to young carers, as well as making sure they have the support they need at school. The service is commissioned by Lancashire County Council and East Lancashire Clinical Commissioning Group.
“We know it’s crucial young carers have their own life outside of caring and are not socially isolated and being involved within their local community is really important. Barnardo’s workers support the individual interests of our young carers and help signpost them to access activities that run locally to them, from gymnastics to Scouts, to meet other young people in their area. We also provide them with opportunities to meet other young carers and share experiences through focused group work around themes identified by the young people, as well as a young carers forum, where they can meet to discuss issues and have their voices heard.
“Young carers are amazing and give so much to help care for their loved ones. Our Barnardo’s workers ensure each young carer has someone to talk to when they need it. We would encourage anyone who is, or thinks they may be, a young carer to get in touch so we can help them to receive the right support for their needs.”
To speak with a member of the Barnardo’s Young Carers team, please call 01772 432 020.