Among the children in Bradford living in poverty, some as young as five are taking on roles as carers in their family, says children’s charity Barnardo’s .

Each year its Young Carers Service works with about 250 children for whom household tasks and juggling home finances is everyday life.

Since 1994 the charity has partnered with Bradford Council and Bradford Primary Care Trusts to try to make those young lives easier by putting them in touch with agencies who can help.

But the young carers they know of is believed to be just the tip of the iceberg and there could be more than 2,000 more hidden young carers across the city.

Peter Rutherford, manager of Bradford Young Carers Service hopes the Telegraph & Argus Children’s Secret Santa will help highlight the plight of those thousands.

He said: “We’re delighted to be involved with the T&A Children’s Secret Santa Appeal.

“All the gifts that we receive will be given to young carers that we work with – that’s children as young as five years old who are caring for a sick or disabled relative. It’s a fantastic way of acknowledging all that they do and of letting them know that we are all proud of them.

“For some of the children and young people we work with, the present that you send may be their only gift this Christmas. It will make a huge difference in showing them that someone cares.

“On behalf of the children and young people we support and from all of us at Barnardo’s, a very big thank you.”

Here’s the story of one 12-year-old boy who has been a young carer for as long as he can remember. His mum suffers with depression and is being treated for alcohol misuse.

He said: “Mum stopped getting up in a morning. At first I would stay at home and watch TV but I wanted to go to school so I would just get ready and go to school on my own. My little brother was five at the time so I would get him ready too, make him a cheese sandwich and then take him to school.”

He helps his mum with medication and cooks meals, he does the weekly shops and has to work out how much money can be spent on it.

Most children his age do not know how to turn a washing machine on – but he does all the laundry, making sure he and his young brother have clean uniform for school.

He looks after his little brother, now six, putting him to bed and reading him a story before he settles down “If mum’s poorly I’ll get him ready for school. I might do something like make tea when we get home, pasta or something like that. I’ve done this since I was little.”

His school work has suffered because he missed some days to help at home – and his anxiety got worse.

“I was missing school sometimes and wasn’t getting homework done. And when I was at school I just worried about my mum. I fell asleep at my desk once and everyone laughed. That was embarrassing. I didn’t talk to any of my friends about what was going on, I didn’t think they’d understand. I just got on with it.

“Sometimes kids would make fun of me. My trousers were a bit short and my mum hadn’t been able to get me any more, it was ages since she took us shopping for clothes. It made me feel really mad. I didn’t cry but I felt like it.”

Barnardo’s Bradford Young Carers was alerted to his situation by the family’s GP after his mum sought medical help.

Young Carers has helped him get his life on track, he meets with his Barnardo’s worker every fortnight talking about how his caring role affects confidence and self esteem as well as aspirations, friendships and bullying.

As well as his one-on-one sessions, his mum gets support too.

The Barnardo’s service also takes the young people on trips to give them time away from their responsibilities and be just children.

The boy said: “That’s the best bit, meeting other kids who are doing similar things to me. They get what I’m going through and I don’t have to feel embarrassed. Young Carers are just fantastic.”

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