Young people who care for their peers will benefit from $40,000 in Victorian Government funding awarded to Orygen via the Supporting Carers Locally Grants Program.
The funding will enable Orygen to identify existing supports for young carers, identify gaps in services, and ultimately co-develop new peer support services for young carers.
Orygen Family Peer Work Development Lead, Clinical Services Reform, Jennifer Bité, is overseeing the project and said there were many young people who acted as carers for peers with mental ill-health.
“This project is targeting young people between 12–25 years of age who have caring responsibilities for other young people within the same age group,” Ms Bité said.
“They may be siblings, other family members, partners or friends. They could offer emotional, practical or financial support.”
The project will leverage Orygen’s existing family peer work program, which identified that many young people with mental ill-health had siblings or other peers who played a caring role, but who had not been offered support services.
It aims to provide young carers with support from a peer who has had a similar lived experience.
Orygen is partnering with Satellite Foundation, a not-for-profit that offers creative programs to connect and empower children and young people who have a parent or carer with mental health challenges. Together, Satellite and Orygen will consult with young people about what supports they would like to have in place, and will expand opportunities to connect young carers with others in similar situations.
Ms Bité said that while many young people provided care out of love, there were often challenges.
“The trade-offs can include reduced time to pursue their own interests, study or career options; sacrifices when it comes to friendships, social interactions, and their own wellbeing,” Ms Bité said.
“Anecdotally, young carers struggle with finding the boundary between their role as sibling/family member/friend and their role as carer. They can also find it hard to access supports, and information about eligibility for supports.
“Young carers can also find that they’re not included in discussions with professionals about recovery expectations for the young person they care for, and about that person’s treatment and care – including discharge, wellbeing, medication – especially when they are required to support the person at home.”
It’s hoped the peer support will lead to increased understanding of mental ill-health; increased social connection; increased coping skills; better connections with school, work or study; and decreased financial stress.
The project will be rolled out across Orygen sites at Glenroy, Sunshine, Werribee, Melton, Craigieburn, and Parkville with the hope of involving 30–40 young carers over a 12 month period.