Young carers in the Swindon area are again working with local firefighters to develop their confidence and skills.
A group of 16 registered users of Swindon Young Carers – all aged from 12 to 16 – are spending the week with Wiltshire Fire & Rescue Service to experience a basic fire and rescue training course.
Known as Salamander, the programme encourages participants to work as a team, while building up confidence and self-esteem – it involves firefighting skills with hose, pumping appliances and hydrants; abseiling; ladder climbing; search and rescue; casualty care; road traffic collision rescue skills; and water rescue.
At the end of the course, which is being held from 15-19 February at Drove Road fire station, the group will put on a display of their new found skills for family, friends and senior Fire & Rescue Service officers.
Instructor Watch Manager Mark Evans said that previous Salamander courses for the Young Carers had been very successful, with over 100 young people benefiting over the past seven years. “During the week we focus on self-esteem and teamwork, allowing the young people to learn new skills and then work with others to achieve their aims. It is also an opportunity for them to focus on themselves, rather than the person they care for.”
The young carers would normally spend their time looking after a family member at home. Many care for a parent or sibling with a wide range of dependencies; this could be anything from long term health problems or learning difficulties to a life changing physical disability. With much of their time taken up caring, many of these young people have little opportunity to do anything else. Young carers are often taking on a caring role that would normally be associated with an adult, offering anything from five to 50+ hours of caring a week on top of school or college.
The Salamander course has been designed to give them a break from caring whilst taking part in something totally unique. Hannah Kinsella, of Swindon Carers’ Centre, said: “The Salamander project has had such a huge and positive impact on many of the young carers over the years. Many have gone on to do the public services qualification at college, others have overcome their fears such as heights and water, and others have become less isolated and developed new social skills. Salamander really challenges the young carers and gives them an insight to what the fire service does.
“Young carers tell us that, by attending the programme, they make new friends and develop strong, positive relationships with other young people who may be in a similar situation as themselves. The course helps them gain confidence, learn how to get along with others and work as a team. Without the support of Wiltshire Fire & Rescue Service, we would not be able to offer such a great opportunity to our young people.”
She added: “Out of all the activities that Swindon Young Carers do throughout the year, the Salamander project has the greatest impact and benefit by far on the emotional development of the young carers who take part. They not only challenge themselves, but they gain confidence, develop social skills, gain new friendships and travel a journey together in achieving an end goal.”