IT’S fair to say that Maddi Joel was never short of something important to do – often involving providing crucial health care for her siblings – even before the lockdown.
For Maddi, just 16 and the eldest of eight children, helps care for her four-year-old sister, Pixie, with epilepsy, a baby and her two little brothers.
Now she is helping to teach her five-year-old sister school work until she can return to school.
Luckily, as well as her mum, Emma, and dad, Lee, who works full-time at a cable company, Maddi has her two other sisters, Makenzie, 15, and Mahlliah, 13, to help.
And she also has The Young Carers Group based at The Junction, a council-supported youth charity in her home town of Redcar.
“I love the Young Carers group, so much,” says Maddi, who has agreed to help support and publicise national Carers’ Week. “I’ve been going every month since I was ten and you can just play on an X-Box or chill. You can meet other young carers and it’s where I met my best friend.”
Maddi explained that the lockdown meant she has had a break from schoolwork as GCSEs are going to be assessed on mocks and coursework. However, she is still helping to teach her younger siblings, especially her five-year-old sister, Paisley, as they are still being given school homework.
“It never stops,” smiles Maddi. “There’s always like a million things to do. You have to know what to do if Pixie has a seizure, make sure everyone who has medication gets it, help get everyone to their appointments, cook, clean and then do your homework like everyone else. But, whatever happens, I want to do my A Levels next year, English Literature, Philosophy and Business Studies. After that, I don’t know.”
“Yes, she does know,” laughs mum, Emma. “She wants to take over The Junction! She loves it there.”
Emma is still breastfeeding her one-year-old and outlined the importance of Maddi keeping an eye on Pixie. “Pixie has to have someone with her if she goes to the toilet or just wants to go her room and read her book,” explains Emma. “And Maddi will always step up. Maddi was due to be doing her GCSEs this year and so her sister, Makenzie, has been sitting with Pixie in the car on the way to school this year. The good thing is the primary school, St Benedict’s, and the secondary, Sacred Heart, are right next to other, I don’t know what we’d do without that.”
Emma stressed that herself and Lee do all they can to ensure not much pressure is placed on their three eldest daughters.
“We are so proud of them,” she says. “They are amazing. They very often put their social lives on hold. They’re very patient, very kind and very understanding. But we let them know that they don’t have the main responsibility. It’s still their mum and dad.”
As she speaks her phone goes and noise erupts from the family home. Mum and daughter must go back to the hurly burly.
Eileen Cowle, Young Carers Services Co-ordinator at The Junction, said she was proud of Maddi. “She does so much and they’re a wonderful family. Carers’ Week is a really important date on the calendar. All carers are fantastic and need to be recognised and celebrated. But I sometimes think young carers can be forgotten a bit. They are extra special children and young people and we’re so proud of each and every one of them.”
Those sentiments were echoed by Councillor Alison Barnes, Cabinet Member for Children. She said: “It was lovely to learn of Maddi and her sisters who do so much to care for their siblings. They are truly fantastic. I’m so pleased that they attend the Young Carers Support service at The Junction and access the help that is available there. Redcar and Cleveland council recognise how important it is to ensure that our young carers have that space the Junction offers, for advice, peer support and fun activities. Carers week is an opportunity for us all to take a moment to remember people of all ages, who give so much time in their lives to care for others.”
The Junction Foundation is a local charity commissioned by Redcar & Cleveland Council to provide a Young Carers Service to children, young people and their families who take on a caring responsibility. It is a support service providing family support, one-to-one emotional support, small focused group work, monthly social activities and school holiday activities. The Junction can be contacted at 01642 756000 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Find out more about Carers Week at https://www.carersuk.org/news-and-campaigns/campaigns/carers-week