Camilla meets young carers at Barnardo’s centre

The Duchess of Cornwall has highlighted the hidden efforts of hundreds of thousands of young carers sacrificing their childhoods to look after a relative.

Camilla was visiting a Barnardo’s centre and met children as young as nine who wash, feed and support a parent or close family member alongside attending school.

She was joined at the charity’s Wellbeing Hub in Ilford, east London, by its chief executive Javed Khan, who said his organisation ran programmes to put the “childhood” back into the lives of young carers.

Speaking about Camilla he said: “Young carers is one of her special interests, and care leavers, so we were delighted when she said she would be willing to visit this centre.

“Young carers are one of the great untold stories in this country, I think. it’s very hard to determine how many young carers there are.

“There’s a recent study which says there are at least 800,000 children in this country – some as young as seven or eight – caring for elderly relatives, parents often, or uncles and aunts.

“There’s very little known about this large group of children, so Barnardo’s up and down the country runs a whole range of programmes and projects, where we provide services that put the childhood back into those children’s lives, essentially, because they’re having to grow up really fast.”

Camilla visits the remodelled play area
Camilla visits the remodelled play area (John Stillwell/PA)

The duchess toured the centre which provides services for young carers, supports those leaving care and provides respite care for children with disabilities – all in partnership with Redbridge Council.

Camilla watched as young carer Connie, nine, had her nails painted by Tomomi Malcolm, 16, who attended the centre as a young carer and is now a volunteer.

The duchess said: “Oh my goodness, you’re having different colour on your nails – you’re going to be very, very beautiful by the end of the day.”

Camilla meets youngsters in an arts and crafts area
Camilla meets youngsters in an arts and crafts area (John Stillwell/PA)

Tomomi said: “I’ve always wanted to work with children, I want to be a social worker when I grow up and this is a great experience.”

She said going to the centre and meeting other young carers was vital for her when she was younger: “Everyone came together to share their experiences and understand what each other was going through.”

Camilla also opened the centre’s new sensory wing and had a brief tour of the facilities, joking she could not play when a young girl offered her a seat at a piano.

Barnardo’s Young Carers Service supported 152 young people in Redbridge last year while its Redbridge Leaving Care service supported 238 care leavers.

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