It was late at night on Thursday the 12th of March and I was refreshing my Twitter feed…constantly. I felt anxious and on edge and the reason, looking back on it, was a bit silly. I had been invited to the Grand Prix with State Government of Victoria on the next day and despite not knowing anything about Formula 1, I had been looking forward to the event.
As it got later and later, it looked more and more likely that the Grand Prix would be cancelled due to the threat of COVID-19. It seemed ridiculous. We had been hearing about this virus for months overseas and all of a sudden it had landed on home soil. I woke up on Friday the 13th (a superstitious day even without a looming pandemic) and just like that, literally overnight, everything seemed to have taken a turn for the worse.
The Grand Prix was cancelled, I pulled out last minute of a speaking engagement due to the perceived threat of walking into a school environment for my already high-risk family and by Tuesday the 17th of March, the entire Little Dreamers team was working from home. The past seven weeks have flown by, but they haven’t come without both challenges and massive wins within the Little Dreamers family.
As a naturally inquisitive person, I’ve been reading a lot about the virus, how to best work from home and how to take care of ourselves during this time. There has been a lot of literature about how COVID-19 does not discriminate, we’re all in this together. And while the virus itself does not choose between the rich and poor, it has highlighted the inequality gap for me even more.
Approximately 1 in 10 young people in Australia grow up with a caring role in their family and as one of the country’s most vulnerable group of young people, Young Carers are now facing even more challenges.
The current COVID-19 outbreak has posed additional worries and anxiety for those Young Carers who look after a loved one with a complex health need. They may be concerned about how to provide vital support without putting their family at risk. This has meant that they may have less access to essential services including supermarkets and pharmacies, especially if the main driver in the family is unable to leave the house due to a lower immune system.
School often provides respite for the Young Carers and with all education now online, Young Carers are finding that they are providing care 24/7 with less time to balance caring with their school work. Without school to go to, Young Carers are missing an important layer of support and there is a higher risk of them losing focus on future opportunities. With heightened levels of unemployment and financial stress, caring families who are already facing financial disadvantage may find themselves on harder times than usual. Without school meals, many Young Carers are struggling to get the food they need at this time.
Little Dreamers has worked hard over the past 7 weeks to move 80% of our programs online. This means that while many social services for Young Carers, and other vulnerable groups of young people, have ceased during the COVID-19 crisis, Young Carers have still been able to access online school holiday programs, virtual mentoring groups and additional case management. Gaps have been found in the provision of education support for Young Carers and Little Dreamers has built an online tutoring program to fill this gap.
I am incredibly proud of the Little Dreamers team who have worked hard during a time of uncertainty and disruption. As I have told the team before, we are currently working through a pandemic. We cannot expect to be as productive, switched on and focussed as we usually are. However, every single day the team has blown me away with their passion for Young Carers and their ability to think outside the box.
To our Young Carers, you may be working harder than you ever have before, but you will come out the other side of this crisis a stronger, more determined and more wonderful human being. It may not feel like it every day, but there is light at the end of this tunnel and we will get there together. Little Dreamers is just on the other end of the phone if you need us at any time.
We’re not all impacted by COVID-19 in the same way, but we are definitely all in this fight together.