Cooking up some fun with the Caring Crew

A GROUP that helps give young carers at a Downend school a welcome break is going from strength to strength.

Christ Church Junior School’s Caring Crew organises activities and provides support for pupils who help care for other family members when they are at home.

There are 22 children in the group.

Young carers help or care for a family member with an illness or disability, mental health issue or addiction.

Some have parents who rely on them, while others help care for a sibling who has a physical disability or additional needs.

All of them have pressures on their lives that other children don’t, and may not even be aware of.

The group is led by the school’s inclusion lead Tracy Eatwell and head teacher Pippa Osborne.

As well as providing day-to-day support and understanding of the extra challenges they face, the teachers organise activity days to bring the children together to have fun.

Their latest activity was an afternoon forest school session, including building a fire and toasting marshmallows on sticks.

They have also tried cheerleading, had visits from an artist, firefighters and from the local branch of charity Guide Dogs: the children are planning a cake sale to raise money as a thank-you, after learning baking in cookery sessions.

The Caring Crew have made several visits to the residents of William Court retirement complex in Overnhill Road, and struck up a bond with the pensioners that Mrs Eatwell described as “absolutely wonderful”.

She said: “These children have got really difficult home lives, and we try and do something to make their lives that little bit better.

“We don’t talk about being young carers in the group. Any worries they have, they know they can talk to me or Pippa.

“When they’re part of our group, we just have fun.”

The group has activity sessions two or three times a term. But Mrs Eatwell says they do not have a budget to pay for events, so rely on the generosity of groups, businesses and individuals to help organise the activities.

She said: “The local community have been absolutely fantastic.”

Support for young carers’ families is also on offer, such as food bank vouchers for those who are in financial difficulty.

The Caring Crew also raise awareness among other children – to tie in with Young Carers Action day on March 13 there was an assembly at the school, to give pupils an idea of what young carers cope with.

Young carers schools worker Vicki Houselander helps coordinate services for children across South Gloucestershire, and said Christ Church Juniors had won an award for its work.

Vicki said: “Statistically, young carers don’t do as well as their peers in school.

“Something like one in 12 young people in secondary schools are young carers, which means at least two people in every class.

“They are a hidden group, and can take three to seven years to be identified.

“If nobody knows why they’re having a bad day, you can’t give them the support.”

The Bristol and South Gloucestershire Young Carers’ Service helps schools set up groups so young carers don’t feel alone, provides staff training and advises on support and understanding children may need in areas like homework, transition between schools and attendance.

The service can help schools recognise when a child has caring responsibilities and understand their situation.

The school is looking for more companies and charities to provide for Caring Crew sessions.

Anyone who would like to offer an activity, outing, support or equipment for the Caring Crew should contact Mrs Eatwell at

For more information about the help available from Carers Support Centre, contact Bristol & South Gloucestershire Carers’ Line on 0117 965 2200, visit or email