Awareness of young carers’ experiences and needs is low on governmental and societal levels in Denmark. This paper presents findings from a qualitative study of a Danish respite programme, the Buddy Programme, that aims to provide support to young carers aged 5-15 years who experience serious, chronic or mental illness and/or death of a parent or sibling. Over a four-month period, volunteer students from University College Copenhagen offer young carers the opportunity of respite through participating in ordinary activities such as play and sports. In 2017-2018, based on a child-centred approach, we conducted interviews focusing on how the Buddy programme affected the children. The interviews took place at programme start, halfway through, and after completion with 22 children and 21 parents, as well as single interviews with 20 Buddies assigned to families after completion. Three main themes were identified: 1) the Buddy programme as an activity, 2) the effect of the Buddy programme and 3) ending the Buddy programme and wanting to continue a friendship. Our findings emphasise the importance of fun and cosy activities that provide children with respite from the serious concerns that otherwise fill the lives of young carers. Being with a Buddy created a free space, allowing children to play undisturbed and to temporarily keep concerns and a guilty conscience at a distance. By offering friendship, Buddies provided opportunities for young carers to feel special, be seen, acknowledged and taken seriously as a child with valid and specific needs and interests. Our findings may help increase awareness of the needs and interests of young carers on governmental and societal levels.
- Børn og unge