Brave young carers in Portsmouth given a festive treat

Connor, 12, firefighter Geoff Doughty and Elijah, 11  Picture Ian Hargreaves  (161355-3)
Connor, 12, firefighter Geoff Doughty and Elijah, 11 Picture Ian Hargreaves (161355-3)

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INSPIRATIONAL children who care for others were given the perfect Christmas gift over the weekend.

About 44 youngsters took part in an action-packed tour of Southsea Fire Station on Saturday morning.

The day was a reward for the selfless boys and girls who give up their time to care for loved ones with disabilities or mental health disorders.

As well as putting the station’s firefighting equipment to the test, the young carers also had a chance to meet police officers now based there, trying on some of their protective riot gear.

To cap the day off, children were given a full Christmas meal – provided by Sainsbury’s – and watched a festive panto at the Kings Theatre.

Rai Smith, 11, cares for his grandmother, who has cancer.

He said: ‘I loved every minute of today.’

This is the 24th year the firefighters have staged the Christmas event.

Firefighter Vince Nicoll, of Blue Watch, said: ‘These kids are all remarkable.

‘They’re great little characters who deserve a day to let their hair down and be kids.

‘You wouldn’t believe it when you see them here just what sort of things they go through on a daily basis.’

Jane Steggall, of Portsmouth City Council’s young carers specialist service, said there are at least 1,200 children acting as carers in the city – although the true figure could be far greater than this.

Many support loved ones with a range of chores like cleaning or shopping, while others became the emotional rock of support for a parent going through a tough time.

Jane added: ‘Most of our children show huge amounts of resilience. They’re an inspiration to work with.

‘They’re selfless, caring and mature beyond their years.’