WHEN we are young, seeing our parents ill is a traumatic experience.

Feeling helpless, we pray for the day when they are well and life can get back to normal.

However, for some youngsters, their parents will not get better and they must carry on providing help and support.

These young carers are called The Silent Army, as although they stay resilient their voices are rarely heard.

Georgia Setchell, 14, and brother, Thomas, 12, are just two of the thousands of young carers who care for others, taking on responsibilities beyond their years.

The siblings from Highwoods in Colchester both look after their mum Helen, 55, who became severely ill in 2014.

She was diagnosed with Gastroparesis - a disease in the stomach muscles which causes the muscles to stop working.

Helen, who is married to husband, Peter, said she spent six months in Colchester General Hospital before being sent to St Mark’s Hospital in London for a diagnosis.

The former nurse said she had been in excruciating pain.

She said: “They gave me a Hickman line so I don’t eat, I just have special bags of fluid.

“I’m losing the ability to walk, I can potter around the house but can’t get very far. I’ve also got heart failure.

“It’s frightening if a parent or sibling is ill but my children are not forced to do anything, they are just wonderful kids and that’s the same for all young carers I have met.”

Georgia won a national Young Carer Award in 2016 for the support she gives her mum.

The siblings also attended mayor Gerard Oxford’s volunteer lunch which recognised and thanked dedicated volunteers.

But this recognition has not been enough to make life easier for Georgia and her brother.

The St Helena School pupils used to attend a weekly support group near Colchester Town Hall, but due to a lack of funding the service was reduced and now they only have monthly sessions.

Georgia, who was ten when she started caring for her mum, said: “It can be a tough day but I don’t think of it like that. I wouldn’t want to watch my mum struggle.

“It’s not a chore if you love someone.”

She wants to raise awareness of the fact there are so many others like her who are being neglected or forgotten when it comes to support.

“There are 130,000 carers in the UK between five and 17 who are completely unknown to the local authorities. There are 160 children under the age of five,” she added.

“We used to attend Young Carers once a week, then it changed to once a fortnight, and now it’s once a month. We are hidden, dismissed and not considered relevant.

“No-one listens to our cry for help, when I don’t have someone to speak to once a week I have to keep everything that knocks me down inside until that meeting once a month.”

Georgia and Thomas help give Helen her tablets and generally support her around the house.

They help with the housework and day-to-day tasks like shopping.

“There are no longer outreach workers,” Helen said.

“The children are suffering with depression. It’s just tragic because they have no-one to talk to.

“They have to grow up really quickly and they have to sacrifice their childhood.

“However, every day is an adventure and we always look on the bright side. The situation is just so restrictive. We can’t plan anything and we haven’t been on holiday in eight years.”

Through a small amount of funding Colchester Council was able to provide a yearly pass to Leisure World, so the children could have some free time.

However, it was no comparison to the help they once received at the Young Carers Centre.

Helen said: “The kids really looked forward to it. They all used to get together and have giggles and every now and again they would go on a trip.

“They had fun and it was a few hours a week they could be normal. We had a brilliant outreach worker, she was the kids’ advocate and she listened.

“Now the children are really depressed. I encourage them to meet up with friends and have fun with them but not all young carers can do that.”

Georgia has been making her voice heard and recently took part in a Youth Speak event with her brother, which was hosted by the Rotary Club of Colchester Forum at the Town Hall.

Her team did not win but they gave such a moving and eye-opening speech it brought everyone in the room to tears.

Thomas, who was eight when he started his carer role, said: “Young carers are not always girls, quite a lot of them are boys but some of them are bullied at school.

“At my school the headteacher welcomes us young carers with open arms and treats us the same. She makes sure there are no problems.

“My sister and I once took part in a Jamie Oliver cookery course arranged by the Rotary Club but Young Carers cannot afford to carry it on.

“We used to have an outreach worker at school but they don’t come any more, it’s like we have been discarded.

“There is nothing to look forward to at the club, all the people we formed a bond of trust with aren’t there any more. We feel isolated and it’s quite sad.”

His mum said it was a shock to many people who were not aware of young carers.

Local authorities say it is a child’s right to take a break and enjoy leisure time, have an education, be heard and receive information and advice.

But for some children like Georgia and Thomas, they feel these rights are not always met.

Helen said: “They have got no vote, they are a silent army, a forgotten army.

“They save the Government thousands by looking after us at home when we could be in hospital.

“Georgia is really keen to make people aware, support is a lifeline.”