KAYLEY Gregory’s mum is her hero.

“I am so close to my Mum and I know she did everything she could for me. She really is my hero.”

Kayley was seven when her mum was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Although Kayley had a supportive family close to hand, the pair worked well as a team.

The 22-year-old recalls helping mum around the home - and her mum would help her with homework.

For Kayley, being a young carer was a positive experience in helping her to become the person she is today and inspiring her to pursue a caring career.

Training to become a mental health nurse has given Kayley a greater understanding of her mum’s condition - and a passion to help others in similar situations.

“I am just so inspired by her,” says Kayley, referring to the close relationship she shares with her mum.

“That is what pushed me to try and get where I am today.”

Kayley, who was recently promoted to assistant ward manager on Maplebeck Ward at Bradford District Care NHS Foundation Trust’s Lynfield Mount Hospital, Bradford, was also inspired by the staff and patients she met through her caring experience.

“I feel that this job was what I was meant to do, I absolutely love it. I see people in similar situations to what my mum was in, and carers in similar situations to what I was in and I just feel so grateful that I can give that bit of reassurance - I can say to carers ‘I have been in a similar situation to you, so I have some understanding of what it’s like,” explains Kayley.

“Although I appreciate caring responsibilities affect so many young people, the experience has made me into the person I am today, and I feel so privileged to be in a job that I love. I think when you’re put in a situation that you have no control over, you have to make the best of a difficult situation and that’s what I really tried to do.”

According to the Children’s Society, there are 166,000 young carers (under 18) in the UK. Many are forced to grow up early and miss out on the same opportunities as other children because they care for family members with health conditions.

As a young carer, Kayley was supported by Bradford District Care NHS Foundation Trust’s Horton Park Carers Hub, a place where young carers can meet, share experiences and develop new friendships.

Volunteering at the Hub gave Kayley the opportunity to give something back and inspire other young carers to achieve their aspirations.

The Trust also runs Carers Hubs at Dyneley House Surgery, Skipton and Lynfield Mount Hospital, Bradford. The hubs are for carers whose loved ones use Trust services to meet and access free advice and information. They also run young carer support sessions, craft sessions and film club nights.

Volunteering as a carers champion for Maplebeck Ward, Kayley attends monthly meetings with carers champions from hospital wards across the Trust to share ideas on how to improve support for carers.

“It’s absolutely vital for young people to have somewhere to go for additional support like the Carers Hubs,” says Kayley.

“When you’re so young you don’t always fully understand what’s going on, so it’s good that young people have a place to go now.

“Speaking to someone else who may be going through a similar situation can make all the difference. Knowing you’re not alone is sometimes all you need. I’m really lucky as my mum is doing really well now, but when I was younger having that time away made a massive difference.”

Young Carers Awareness Day tomorrow (January 31) raises awareness of the thousands of young carers across Britain who are caring for a sick or disabled family member.

Bradford District Care NHS Foundation Trust is encouraging young visitors to Horton Park Carers Hub with their friends or family members to enjoy quality time together on the day.

Isla Skinner, Bradford District Care NHS Foundation Trust Patient Experience Lead, said: “Carers and young carers like Kayley provide valuable support to their loved ones. We also recognise they are individuals with needs of their own, and that young carers have some specific needs and issues to deal with. We want to do all that we can to support carers through our Carers Hubs and to continue to provide care and support services to families in the district.”

Visit bdct.nhs.uk/support-for-carers, call 01274 251112 or email carerhub@bdct.nhs.uk.