Aged 12, and looking after the Family
Jenny and Louise Craig
Paul and Amanda Craig are blind and disabled. They live in a terraced house
in Bicester, Oxon with their six children. They are fiercely independant
and only accept help from social services for a few hours cleaning of
As a result, the two oldest girls, Jenny and Lousie, look after their
four younger brothers, day in and day out. Jenny is nine years old, Louise
The boys Daniel, Matthew, Richard and Nigel are six, three,
two and eight months respectively.
When asked how she first learned that she was to be a carer, Louse
answers "My mum and dad sat me down, when I was about three, and
told me that they were both blind and that I need to help out. I told
them that I would be eyes for both of them".
Paul and Amanda expect their young daughters to pull their weight
within the family and take on some of the responsibility of being a
parent. As the documentary was being filmed, questions arose over the
nature of parental choice for families. What sort of upbringing do
For the last seven years, Louise has juggled the demands of her
parent's growing family with her schoolwork. Each morning before she
goes to school, Louise has to get her brothers, bathed and dressed,
prepare their breakfast and ensure they are packed off to school. When
she returns, after her own school day, she has to prepare dinner for the
boys, help her mother with the laundry, then put her brothers to bed.
Amanda has congenital cataracts, she can only see things when they
are very close up. Paul suffered a brain haemorrhage when he was a baby
which virtually destroyed his sight. They met each other at a blind
school when they were teenagers.
Amanda and Paul Craig
Amanda was one of eight children, Paul was one of six and they've
always wanted a large family of their own. They are both of the opinion
that the more children they have, the more help they will receive as
they get older. Amanda and Paul are both proud of the way they're
handling their growing family. Amanda has just learned that she is
pregnant with their seventh child.
Paul reflects: "I spent most of my life in boarding school, I
hated going home because my dad used to use me as a punch-bag. It's
alleged that it was my dad who fractured my femur when I was three
months old, and caused my brain haemorrhage when I was nine months old.
I want to give my children what I never had. A loving parent, new shoes,
and new clothes.
All the shoes I had, when I was a child, came from
jumble sales. You should show your children love and not abuse and let
them know that if they have a problem that we're here for them".
Jenny and Louise aren't alone, there are at least 175,000 child
in the United Kingdom supported by the Young Carer's Association.
Founded in the 1990s to lobby and listen, the association recognises the
strain these children are under. It's monthly activities are designed so
that carers, like Jenny and Louise, get a chance to be just children,
free from responsibilities beyond their years, if only for an afternoon.
CREDITS: All of the above information was taken from the Channel 4 "A
Child's Life" documentary programme.
for Parents with Mental Illness - Jo Aldridge, Saul Becker
||Young Carers in
Their Own Words - Andrew Bibby, Saul Becker