AT SCHOOL Daisy Astill is just like every other teenager – it’s when she gets home her life becomes different because that’s when she is a carer for younger brother Jack.

Jack, who is seven, has severe autism, is non-verbal and needs care 24/7 because he can be a danger to himself.

Daisy spends most of her ‘spare’ time at home in Crewe helping her mum look after him.

She doesn’t resent it and tells me several times as we talk that she loves her brother very much.

But the 13-year-old, who has recently been diagnosed with autism herself, admits juggling her schoolwork with helping to care for Jack can be difficult.

Northwich Guardian: Daisy is a carer for her younger brother, JackDaisy is a carer for her younger brother, Jack (Image: Supplied)

“I feel like people don’t really understand what’s going on and they might feel it would be an easy job, but it’s not whatsoever,” she said.

“I love my brother but it’s difficult to deal with sometimes because, obviously, I’ve got stuff going on and I’ve got that to deal with as well.

“It’s hard explaining it to other people because they don’t deal with it every day and I feel they just don’t get it.”

At night Daisy is sometimes kept awake worrying if she hasn’t been able to do her homework because she has been spending time with Jack.

“Sometimes I would like an extended deadline so it would just take the pressure off instead of worrying about I’ve got to get this [homework] done but then I’ve also got to help out with Jack at home, and it just piles up and makes me worry throughout the day and at night time,” she said.

Much of Daisy’s time at home is spent playing with Jack and ensuring he is safe so their mum, Diane, can get on with other things which have to be done around the home.

Daisy said: “It gives mum a bit of free time while I’m looking after Jack.”

Diane, who works part-time at a local primary school, said:” I couldn’t do it without Daisy because Jack needs full attention all of the time.

“Daisy’s brilliant with Jack, she’s really good.”

Daisy’s carer role starts before she sets off for school.

Diane said: “Once Daisy’s got ready for school she keeps Jack entertained. She leaves at about 7.30am but as soon as she comes in it’s all hands on deck again.

“The weekend is predominantly when she’s in full carer mode.

“Because of Jack’s behaviour, it’s just keeping him safe more than anything else because he’s got absolutely no sense of danger at all.

“For example, if Jack wasn’t on reins, he would be in the middle of the road - he pushed me in the road on Saturday.

“He’s got no conception of the world around him and he does self-harm as well - he does a lot of head-banging.”

Daisy and her mum used to do a lot of things together before Jack was born but Diane says much of that has stopped now.

“I couldn’t be any more proud of Daisy because it’s life-changing for the whole family when you’ve got a disabled sibling,” she said.

“It’s hard as well because there’s a six-and-a-half year age gap between Daisy and Jack, so it was very much me and her.

“We did quite a lot of stuff before Jack came along and we don’t really get those opportunities to do things like that now because there’s no respite care.”

Northwich Guardian: Springfield School, CreweSpringfield School, Crewe (Image: Google)

Jack is a pupil at Springfields Special School in Crewe, which Diane describes as ‘an absolutely outstanding, brilliant school’.

But she knows Jack will always be dependent on his family – and that includes Daisy while she is living at home.

“Jack’s never going to be independent enough to leave home, he is always going to be with us,” said Diane.

Northwich Guardian: Cheshire East Council's HQ at SandbachCheshire East Council's HQ at Sandbach (Image: Cheshire East Council)

Cheshire East Council does offer support for carers and Daisy is grateful for the time she gets to spend with the Young Carers Team which offers, among other things, days out for children in a similar position, every couple of months.

There is also a Young Carers Club.

“Last week we went bowling and that was just a nice experience to have a day off,” said Daisy.

“It was just nice to talk to people about school and home life and I felt I could relate to them in a way that I can’t relate to other people because they are living through it everyday in the same way.”

She said more clubs and support were needed across the country for carers of all ages.

Diane agreed adding “Cheshire East does have some good support networks, although more for the children and not so much for the parents.”

Daisy and Diane agreed to speak to the Local Democracy Reporting Service to raise awareness about young carers.

No-one knows how many thousands of young carers there are across the country because many of these children don’t even tell their schools that, when they get home, they are needed to help look after parents or siblings.

Some of these carers are as young as five.

Information for young carers who need support can be found by calling 0300 303 0208 or online here.