“We loved the process and I think it’s all done a lot for Charlie’s confidence.”
Kate Betts, Charlie’s Mum.
This Thursday (30th January) is Young Carers Awareness Day. Across the UK one in five children are young carers. Caring tasks can be practical chores like cooking and cleaning, physical or personal care, emotional support, managing medical and financial matters or helping someone to communicate.
A third of all young carers say their caring role makes them feel stressed. For many it affects their education because of bullying, struggling to make friends and missing school altogether.
Helping young carers to tell their story is an important way of giving them a voice and enabling them to play an active role in raising awareness of what life is like and the challenges they face. And as Kate says above, it can be great for their self-confidence.
If you are a storyteller working for a Carers Centre (or any organisation supporting children) it is important that you don’t shy away from putting the young carers’ voices at the centre of your campaigning and communications, but it is equally important that you work responsibly and support them in the right way.
Here are our top tips on working with children.
Do your due diligence
Before you pick up the phone to any family or legal guardian make sure you have spoken to a young carer’s key worker or your safeguarding team and identified children and young people for whom storytelling will do no harm. Even if you have worked with a family before, never just pick up the phone or reshare a story without checking the current situation – things can change rapidly.
Even if you are telling the story of a child you must involve the responsible adults in their life, whether that’s parents, legal guardians or professionals. A child may be happy to appear in a film but they won’t always want to speak on camera, or they may speak but not be able to tell you accurately the full facts. Make the child the centre of the story but get the full facts from an adult.
Don’t be apologetic about asking them to tell their story – getting involved in making a film is a super fun thing to do and for a young carer it can be a valuable moment of being the centre of attention. But also be clear. Don’t talk in jargon about awareness, issues and funds – just say we want to make a film that helps people understand what being a carer is like.
Ask for their input
Of course you’ll have your ideas of what you need to show and the key messages you need to communicate but don’t come to a shoot with a fait accompli list of things to capture. Ask them for their ideas of what you should film and ask them if they’re happy with all the ideas you have, especially if it means filming in public or at school where it will attract attention. It will almost certainly throw up things you haven’t thought of and it will make them feel in control of their story.
Be patient and build trust
Don’t expect them to just open up and talk to you about their life within a few minutes of meeting you. Filming with children often means building in more time for a shoot than you may need with older people. The film below is about a carer called Charlie. His interview is brilliant and he’s so confident on camera but by this point we were really familiar faces. Initially he’d said no to being interviewed but when we arrived at a youth orchestra practice he’d already met us at a family day, at home and at school and suddenly he decided he wanted to say something. You can’t rush building trust.
Keep questions simple
If a child does want to say something then keep things much more relaxed than you would if you were interviewing an adult or a staff member. Ask simple questions like: What is your brother like? What jobs do you do in a day? What do you like about school? What don’t you like? Don’t shy away from giving them the opportunity to tell you about the tough bits but don’t force it if they are not forthcoming and never try and make a child visibly distressed for the camera.
Consent for all
Remember, you don’t just need the consent of the main stars of your film, you need consent of all those who will appear in the film, even if they are just in the background of the film, for example in the school and youth orchestra shots in the film below. Getting this consent is not a quick task so build in plenty of time to get this.
Look around you
Look out for things happening on shoot days that may be awkward for a child. For example, are children in the playground staring at the person being filmed or have you spotted another carer looking upset that they’re not being filmed? If so ask a teacher, key worker or parents to have a chat and see if there’s a way to involve them too, even just in B Roll scenes.
Think about the after
Being involved in making a film can be great fun but it can also have an impact. Going ‘back to reality’ after the fun of filming might be a bit of an anti-climax, they may think about what they have said and get worried, or other children may ask them what was happening and tease them or be a bit jealous. Make sure the child or family’s key worker check in with them after the filming to give them a chance to chat anything through.
Watch Charlie’s Story a film we made for BANES Carers’ Centre
Through the Count Me In! campaign Carers Trust and its network of local carers’ centres are calling on compulsory education providers to do more to proactively identify young carers and to ensure that they receive the recognition and support they deserve.
Get involved on social media with #CountMeIn #YoungCarersAwarenessDay #MyMentalHealth, #Careformetoo
To keep in touch with all our news, top tips and guest posts on our weekly blog you can subscribe here.
Next week we’ll be looking at ways to train your service teams to be storytellers.