On Young Carers Awareness Day, among those who really understands the need for more recognition of young people who look after a loved one is teenager Kerry McKenzie.

Kerry, 19, from Westbury, has cared for her older brother throughout her life. She washes him, dresses him and helps him get ready for the day.

She would normally be the little sister to Aidan, who is 18 months older, but he is severely autistic. Until recently, Aidan was incontinent, he has non-verbal communication and needs constant help.

Kerry is just one of the many thousands of young carers who live in Wiltshire and is supported by Wiltshire Young Carers Service.

Kerry said: “Looking after Aidan and helping out is just normal for me. Looking after him is like looking after a toddler.

“When social services became involved with our family, my Mum was working shifts and my older brother, Dan, and I were helping to look after Aidan, but a lot of it fell to me. That was why social services signposted me to Youth Action Wiltshire’s Young Carers Service.”

That help from Wiltshire Young Carers Service changed Kerry’s life.

She began to join in the many activities it runs, importantly providing transport so she could get about.

Kerry had a go at everything from cooking and conservation, to residential breaks. This all gave her time to develop herself as a person, gave her respite from her caring role, and provided the opportunity to meet other young people in a similar position.

“That was the coolest part of all, to find there was an organisation which really valued caring and brought young carers together.”

Kerry is now studying Health and Social Care at Wiltshire College in Chippenham and works as a sessional support worker for Youth Action Wiltshire.

She says: “I have never resented Aidan. He’s always been part of my life and he’s a lovely person. If it wasn’t for him, my life would have taken a different direction altogether and may not have been half as good.”

The Gazette is asking its readers to back Carer Support Wiltshire which is trying to raise £25,000 for its Community Connections Appeal to help carers of all ages. Vince Danaher, volunteer manager at Carer Support Wiltshire, said: “Volunteering is a great way of using your experiences to help others.”