Media Innovation Awards 2009

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There 2 Care has been nominated for a Media Innovation Award in the Collaboration between Business and Young People category.

Young carers are children who have to look after members of their family, because a parent is ill, has had an accident or is disabled, or cannot be the head of the family for other reasons. A young carer takes on the responsibilities for their family, often in very difficult circumstances, and ensures that siblings and parents are fed, that the home is cleaned, that bills and rent are paid; and, in many cases, young carers are responsible for administering prescribed medicines and other medical needs. A young carer does all this as well as studying at school, and, typically, has little or no time for simply "being a child", playing, or focussing on their own needs. Stuart and his colleague Kayla Parker worked in collaboration with young carers aged from 8 to 15 years old. He says: "The aim was to create a DVD that told people – without pulling punches - exactly what it is like to be a young carer: the jobs they do, the problems and issues they face, and the kind of help and support they need from teachers and healthcare professionals. Dr Roger Morgan, The Director for Children's Rights for England, kindly lent his support to the project, and introduced the DVD."

To make the DVD an animation studio was created at The Zone on Union Street Plymouth where The Young Carers Project is based. Using a combination of lo-tech Plasticine modeling clay animation and high- tech computer-based technology the young carers came up with the characters, and their character's name, the animation sequences, and recounted their personal stories – and they composed and recorded a catchy song "There 2 Care: The Voice of Young Carers", which became the title of the DVD."

Stuart says that the project is inovative in many ways: "We were working with extremely sensitive subject matter, and recording the testimony of children who are already vulnerable and subjected to discrimination because they care for their families: the children said that bullying at school and a lack of understanding by their teachers were key causes of distress to them. Ensuring confidentiality was of utmost importance. We worked closely with the professional care workers to formulate a thorough risk assessment and put in place a comprehensive ethical protocol for the project to ensure that the Every Child Matters agenda was addressed fully. We treated the young carers as our equals throughout, and discussed the progress of the production at every stage so that it would truly represent "their voice‟.

At the first meeting, we explained that their contributions would be anonymous in order to protect them and their families; but so that they could be credited on the DVD, we suggested that each child chose a "super-cool nickname‟ for themselves, which ony they would know. Our approach ensured that the animation and DVD is as close as possible to the young carers' perspective and experience. The adults working on the project could not help but be touched by some of the children's experiences, and all were so impressed by the young carers' maturity and willingness to share their sometimes distressing personal stories to help improve things for other young carers and make a difference." 500 DVDs have been distributed to schools and healthcare professionals across the south west so far.