Young Carers: The stats
Published 22/05/2012 | 06:00
While there are no accurate statistics available, Kelley is one of as many as 28,000 young people who could be classified as young carers in Ireland.
And it's not just girls. One 10-year-old boy in the west of Ireland has been caring for his mother who has MS since he was six years old.
This invisible army works in isolation behind closed doors, without any state support, and often missing out on the educational and social opportunities of their peers.
The Carers' Association has recently appointed a Young Carers' Development Worker whose primary role will be to identify young carers and their needs and begin to put a support structure in place.
A question in the 2011 census should also help shed much-needed light on actual numbers.
A young carer is defined as a child or young person under the age of 18 whose daily life is affected in a significant way by the need to provide care for a family or household member who has an illness, disability, addiction or other care requirement.
This may include providing direct personal care, or taking on a supportive role for the main carer.
A 2010 study of young carers in the Irish population found that of the 26 young carers surveyed, nine were in a primary caring role.
Seven were male and 19 were female, while the average age of the children surveyed was 13.
Young carers identified absenteeism from school and social isolation among the negative impacts of giving care.
More than anything, the young carers wanted to see an effective treatment for their ill or disabled relative.