Sporty Callum Filkin is one of thousands of children in Yorkshire who care for a sibling who is sick or has a disability.
The 11-year-old helps look after brother Alfie, three, who has Down’s syndrome and a heart defect (AVSD) which has resulted in him having to be fed through a tube into his stomach to help him grow.
Callum’s role includes helping mum Lisa to change Alfie’s dressings, to bring him his medicines, and to help keep Alfie calm when he gets distressed, as well as looking after Alfie with brother Zachary, eight, so mum can get on with everyday tasks, such as getting dressed.
And as ‘the man of the house’ one of Callum’s weekly jobs is putting out the bins.
“It’s a bit hard being a young carer as you’ve got to do all these things that you may not like, but it’s what I do – I just get on with it,” says Callum.
“I’m a young carer and I’m proud of it. I have to help, so I do.
“People who know me know I’m a young carer and I get respect for it – my best friend says I’m a good person.”
Alfie has been in and out of hospital for various procedures to help him develop physically, including being fitted with a gastrostomy tube to be fed through his stomach to help him thrive.
Unfortunately, the tube has recently been removed as the toddler kept pulling it causing a larger hole, which now has to heal before it can be fitted again during another operation in February.
Single mum-of-three Lisa, 45, says the support Callum has from Carers’ Resource Young Carers service in Skipton has been ‘wonderful’.
“When he’s talking to some of his friends at school they don’t really understand what’s going on and how Alfie’s health, him being in and out of hospital, can have an impact on his life, and what it entails,” says the former nurse.
Callum, who is in Year Six at Glusburn School and wants to be a sportsman when he grows up, says he thinks about his youngest brother all the time.
“Once when we were going swimming with school I saw an ambulance go past and I got really upset. I thought it must be Alfie because he was really poorly at the time,” says Callum.
“When I’m at school, when I’m out, I always think about him and I hope he’s OK.”
Callum says spending time with fellow young carers at the Carers’ Resource groups and trips has helped him enjoy lots of different activities, including climbing, raft-building, big swings, caving and the zip wire.
“It’s good to be with kids who are going through similar things. I don’t have to explain it to them,” he says.
“But I don’t feel like I’m missing out – I do the young carers stuff, go to youth club, play football and go to the cinema with my friend,” says Callum, who also plays guitar, violin and ukulele.
“Alfie loves music and dancing and we have fun. We also have messy play and play with cars together.”
But mum Lisa, of Cross Hills, Craven, says they find it difficult to do things together as a family, such as going swimming or going to watch a film.
“We have a good support network of friends – you know who your friends are when you’re going through times like this – so we always have someone who can help look after Alfie if I need to take Callum or his brother Zachary somewhere,” she says.
See our post on Young Carers Awareness Day for more.