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Vicky's story: I became a carer overnight

Vicky has been a parent/carer for her son Paul who has cerebral palsy for 31 years and for her 24 year old son Daniel who has severe ADHD with related social, emotional and behavioural problems.

I became a carer overnight, when my son Paul was born with severe brain damage; I was then just two weeks off my 19th birthday. I was told that he would never walk or talk and he would not live beyond the age of five. The hospital social worker suggested I put him in care, forget I’d had him and get on with my own life, as I was too young to cope. I asked her to leave, as I had no intention of giving up my baby.

From that point I became very determined that I would show her, and everyone else, that I could care for my son Paul. When he was only 11 months old I became a single parent/carer as a result of my husbands domestic violence towards me. I needed to protect Paul and devote all my time to his care. In a few short years I had gone from being an office junior to new wife and new mum, to full time carer.

I am happy to say my son Paul is now 31 and although he does have cerebral palsy with related physical and learning disabilities, he can walk and talk and I’m very proud of him and his abilities. He is now more than capable of speaking up for himself and making his needs known - I have to say he often does!

My other son Daniel was born when Paul was seven. He was extremely hyperactive and had challenging behaviour, but I had no doctor’s label to explain what was wrong with him. Lots of people including my own family, friends and teachers over the years came up with their own labels; mostly negative. But the main consensus was simply bad child, with bad parent.

Daniel was eventually diagnosed with severe Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder at the age of 13, after years of fighting for a diagnosis and help. One of the hardest things I have had to deal with as a carer was hearing my son tell me that he hated his life, himself and that he wanted to die. As a parent I felt completely helpless and the feeling of guilt that I had failed him was enormous.

I got in touch with my local Carers' Centre 10 years ago to ask for a room to start a support group and the staff really helped. The SAFE support group is still going strong today. Being involved with the Carers Centre helped me to recognise and value myself as a carer. They helped me to see the important role I play in society; they gave me confidence to not only be my son's carer, but to be a person in my own right.

In the 10 years I have been involved with the centre, I have been a service user, a volunteer and facilitator of the Parent/Carer support group, a Trustee & Vice Chair on the Management Committee.

When my eldest son Paul went to a residential college and all my benefits stopped, I had to try to find full time employment. I had no paid work experience to put on a CV and despite 25 years of caring found no-one was willing to give me a chance, not recognising the transferable skills I had developed as a carer.

I applied for many jobs and was turned down but the Carers Centre interviewed me for a short-term post which I successfully obtained and I have never looked back. It is a privilege and an honour to be the new Carers Centres Services Co-ordinator and be in a position to help the staff and the Trustees to continue and develop their excellent work providing quality services for carers in the city of Manchester.