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Young Carers in Stoke on Trent

Monday 25th January 2016

A new BB group in Stoke on Trent is reaching out specifically to young carers, to provide a safe and encouraging environment for them to come along and ‘be themselves’.

Nearly a year on from the start of this work we find out more about how this new group came about and how it’s all going….

Establishing the need

It all started on 24th January 2015. Opening the doors for the first time, the 1st Hanley was to be a first for the BB, in reaching out specifically to young carers in Stoke on Trent. The inception of the group was based on meetings local BB Development Worker, Neil Keighery had with Stoke City Council, in looking at ways the BB could start new groups and support young people across the city.

The city has more than 400 known young carers, but it is estimated there are at least 800+ across Stoke on Trent. The Council were impressed with what the BB could offer by way of resources and support, including our programmes and training and everything moved swiftly along. It was all about providing a safe and encouraging environment for young carers to come along and ‘be themselves’, being very aware that young carers often miss out on opportunities that other children have to play and learn.

“Many young carers value time away from their caring role to socialise with friends and do things that other children their age do. Activities and breaks can also help to build a young carers confidence and promote a healthy lifestyle. The Young Carers group being run by The Boys’ Brigade and Girls’ Association is the only one of its kind, and has provided this vulnerable group of young people living in Stoke on Trent with the opportunity to meet friends, have fun and to take part in activities and trips. This newly established group has already made a difference to the lives of our valuable young carers”

Karen Holdcroft, Young Carers Co-ordinator, City of Stoke-on-Trent

Getting up and running

The new group found a base at All Saints, Hanley through the support and enthusiasm of Rev Geoff Eze to see this group get up and running. Finding staff was the next challenge, and although Neil Keighery was employed as the local Development Worker, he took on the weekly running and Captaincy of this group as a volunteer and along the way recruited Fiona and Danielle as leaders.

“A place of respite. A time to be allowed to be a child. Permission is given for hope, love and friendship to foster. That is what All Saints Boys’ Brigade is built upon. These young lives have to (through no fault or making of their own) confront some difficult situations and love those who love them through those situations. Situations that may have end in sight, but not an end that would want to be reached any time soon. The sacred space of the Church hall, allows just for a moment, time to breathe; to laugh; to cry; to break bread together; to achieve what could not be done alone.

A place of respite. A time to be allowed to be a child. Permission is given for hope, love and friendship to foster. Welcome to The Boys’ Brigade – 1st Hanley!”

Revd Geoffrey Eze, Vicar, All Saints Hanley

A small start-up grant was made available through the Uniformed Youth Social Action Fund which would help pay for equipment and transport costs.

It was not the usual method of recruiting, but for this group it was possible, working alongside Stoke City Council to make contact with the parents of young carers across the city. Starting off with a small group of children and young people, contact was made and relationships started to be built, with a core group ready to come along for that very first meeting.

“I got involved because I wanted to work with children; I get a lot from seeing the young people have fun. It’s especially important for these young people as for much of their time they are caring for others. At BB they all very caring towards one another, always wanting to help each other. It’s brilliant!”

Danielle, Leader

The Weekly Meeting

The group is mixed, with boys and girls, and currently has a membership of 16 children and young people (from age 5 through to 15) meeting weekly in the Church hall at All Saint’s Hanley. The weekly meeting is a little longer than most BB programmes, being 2½ hours, originally on a Saturday morning, it has recently moved to a Sunday afternoon.

In a departure from normal BB practice, the children are not dropped off by their parents. Initially they were collected by minibus, thanks to the loan of a bus from another BB Company, but as the group expanded this has now moved to using approved taxis backwards and forwards. So the BB experience for these young people does not start at the church door, but from the moment they leave their homes.


“The group of children quickly formed an incredible bond – it’s just like a family – and it’s super to see children of all ages (and from many different parts of the city) get on so well. They don’t always wear uniform, are a mixed age group, and sometimes are “wild”, boisterous and silly. But, they get to “be themselves”, have time to be children again and have fun in a safe environment.”

Neil Keighery, Captain

The weekly programme includes games, crafts, free play, music and lots more, each week there is also a specific time when everyone takes time out for something to eat. This forms an extremely important part of the programme, a specific time to sit down, where the young people and leaders can chat to one another. Some of the group’s favourite activities are indoor archery, Lego construction, speed stacks and basketball to mention just a handful.


“I come along because it’s fun, I get to meet new people, there’s a lot of activities we can do, we can work together and learn in our own way.”

Nathan, 14

The group has got out and about on a number of occasions during the last year including taking part in a WW1 Commemoration event at the National Arboretum in Staffordshire, attending the Unite Camp at Felden Lodge (the first time out of Stoke on Trent for some of the young people) and entering the BB National Computer Gaming Championships in West Bromwich.

Recognising their efforts

In September, Niaomi and Molly Owen who are members of the 1st Hanley, were named as the winners of the Make a Difference Award 2015 for the England Region. The awards are all about recognising and celebrating the achievements of BB young people who have gone above and beyond to help others. Niaomi and Molly help their parents look after their brother Bradley (7) who has been diagnosed with Global Developmental Delay. The sisters were presented with their awards at a special ceremony at the Houses of Parliament in London in September. Other members of the group as well as Niaomi and Molly’s parents made the trip down to London for the Awards presentation, and it was a fantastically memorable day for all involved.

“I come because I like to hang out with friends, I love being part of the group… It’s such a happy place, with new adventures, with new people… We all work together really well. It’s also a nice break for me from being a young carer, I support my brother. It’s also great my brother can come along too and we can all have fun together. As a young carer I help my brother with his schoolwork, help him learning his alphabet and numbers, take him out to the park and shop. I also spend time talking to him, asking him how he’s doing at school and helping to keep him calm and talk through things.”

Naomi, 13

What’s Next

Moving into their second year; the 1st Hanley is continuing to evolve and grow and looking to introduce badges and awards into the programme. The group received an ‘Awards for All’ grant of £9,900 in June which has been funding the programme and transportation costs and they are now looking at applying for further funding to purchase a minibus and for additional equipment. The relationship with Stoke Council continues and it is hoped that further groups could be started, with prospective groups in the North and South of the City being investigated.

Is there an opportunity for a local partnership, to start a new Company in your community specifically for young carers? Wouldn’t it be fantastic to see groups across the UK & RoI providing for these very special young people who give so much of their time for others?

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