Oritsé Williams became a young carer aged 12, when his mother contracted multiple sclerosis and he had to take responsibility for looking after her and two younger siblings. During his teenage years, he had a dream: to become a singer and make plenty of money so that he could fund research to find a cure for his mum. At least part of that dream came true when Oritsé and his band, JLS, were runners-up in The X Factor in 2008.
But Oritsé never forgot his early years as a young, unpaid carer. In this programme, he meets the next generation of kids who care – in the UK, Uganda and El Salvador. He learns about the challenges these children and teenagers face, but also hears stories of resilience and hope.
Among the children he meets are 13-year-old Amber, who looks after two sick and disabled parents; 15-year-old Jordan, whose care role ties him to the house almost completely; and 13-year-old Gracie from Uganda, who looks after several younger siblings all on her own.
Experts estimate that one in ten children in the UK shoulders heavy care duties, including personal care such as helping a parent to the toilet, washing and feeding them, helping them to move around using hoists or even giving them injections; while as many as one in five have a lighter caring role. Many of these children struggle at school or face bullying; but as Oritsé discovers, they also develop astonishing resilience, resourcefulness and empathy.
Listen now: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/w3ct4m2h
I fought back tears throughout and am left with huge respect for young carers.