Families will always come first for the young carers

MOST youngsters take playing with their friends for granted ...

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Ellie McBride, 10, cares for her mother Marion, who has severe arthritis and had one leg amputated below the knee
Ellie McBride, 10, cares for her mother Marion, who has severe arthritis and had one leg amputated below the knee

but these young people have to put their family responsibilities first.

Ellie McBride and Liam Meechan are two of Scotland's 100,000 young carers who help parents or older siblings who need extra support.

Ellie, 10, looks after her mum Marion, who has crippling arthritis and has had to have one leg amputated below the knee.

The Primary 6 pupil says she is happy caring for her mum – but for Marion it's difficult to see her daughter take on so much responsibility so young.

The 50-year-old said: "Ellie copes amazingly well. I'm so proud of her. She's a star.

"Ellie is very mature and responsible for her age but I don't want to put it on to her. She's had to grow up a lot and losing my leg meant I had to rely on Ellie a lot more.

"Obviously I would like to be taking care of her and it's hard that our roles are reversed."

Marion has had rheumatoid arthritis for more than 20 years but three years ago started to have severe pain in her leg.

It turned out the former postal worker had blocked arteries and had to have her leg amputated.

Amazingly, Marion has found the courage to start driving and now has a specially adapted car.

Although she doesn't like to travel too far, it means she is able to take Ellie to school.

"When I learned I was going to lose my leg I didn't have time to properly think about it. My main concern was about how Ellie would cope.

"There are times I get really upset and say 'why me?' but I wouldn't wish it on anyone else."

Marion, from Cardonald, worked for the Royal Mail until her vascular disease meant she could no longer carry out her duties.

She said the company was extremely supportive, but eventually she had to give up her job.

Ellie's main responsibilities are to help make meals, housework and to help Marion dress and get in and out of the bath.

Ellie, a pupil at Our Lady of the Rosary Primary School, said: "I make my mum tea and help tidy the house and do the cleaning.

"I like reading at school and drawing and I get a lot of help from my friends."

For Liam, his caring role involves helping his older brother, Dylan, who has autism.

The boys live with their grandmother after their mother died from complications related to epilepsy – a condition that Dylan has just been diagnosed with too.

Liam, a pupil at St Oswald's Secondary School, said: "I take Dylan out to play football with my friends and keep an eye on him so he doesn't get into bother.

"He has been taking seizures so I need to know what to do if he has one.

"It's really scary to watch him have a seizure. I have to call my nan quickly and she puts him on his side so he doesn't choke."

Grandmother Liz Ponsonby, 59, said Liam is a great help looking after his brother.

The clerical officer, from Drumoyne, said: "Liam is very good at taking his brother with him if he's going out to play and he will do a great job at looking after him.

"Liam will keep an eye out on Dylan in case he wanders off. It's a lot of responsibility for such a young age.

"Liam goes to drama at the UK Theatre Academy and at karate lessons on a Saturday. That's his wee outlet to get away from Dylan.

"It's hard for him; you look up to your older brother to help you with things but Liam has to act like he's the older brother."

The boys' mother died suddenly after suffering a seizure when she was just 28.

Liz added: "I'm very proud of Liam. He's a very caring wee boy and a lovely wee boy. It's hard for him because his brother's different.

Neither Ellie nor Liam sees helping their family as a chore – but it's important for them to take some time for themselves and get the chance to do the same things as other children their age.

At Quarriers South West Carers' Centre in Govan, staff work with between 30 and 40 young carers to give them respite from their responsibilities at home.

Young carers are people up to the age of 18 years who help care for family members affected by a chronic illness, disability, substance misuse or mental ill-health.

Often they are in charge of their own care and also cook, do housework, shopping or manage money as well as helping with their family member's physical care.

Liam and Ellie have been part of an ongoing art project at Quarriers that recently saw their work displayed in Pollok Civic Realm.

The youngsters said they enjoyed taking part and making new friends with youngsters who are in a similar situation to them.

Marion added: "Quarriers is essential for kids who are doing what Ellie's doing and it gets them mixing with other kids. At times I feel so guilty about what she has to do."

catriona.stewart@eveningtimes.co.uk

LIAM MECHAN, who helps to look after his brother Dylan

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