Dozens of young carers across South Tyneside are getting specialist extra support during the pandemic via an innovative app thanks to a four-figure grant from the region’s biggest building society.

TENNE South Tyneside Young Carers provides support and respite for young people aged from 5-24 years old who are caring for a family member due to illness, disability, mental health condition or addiction problem.

The organisation has adapted its services during the coronavirus outbreak, with a virtual support hub, one-to-one Zoom sessions and other online resources being made available to ensure the young carers continue to have access to the help they need.

Now, thanks to a £3,000 grant awarded through Newcastle Building Society’s Denmark Centre branch in South Shields and further funding from the Northumbria Police & Crime Commissioner’s Coronavirus Response Fund, the charity has obtained a three-year subscription to the innovative Mind Of My Own app.

The app enables its service users to easily share information with support workers, flag up safeguarding issues and keep in touch with the outside world.

In normal times, TENNE South Tyneside Young Carers provides services including weekly after school respite groups, school holiday activities, schools and family support, recreational breaks and one to one/emotional support.

Part of the TEN North East Limited charity, it also delivers awareness-raising sessions to professional teams and to all local schools, working closely with teaching staff to make sure young carers get added support within their school if they need it.

A four-week online summer activity programme, which focuses on young carers’ well-being and replaces its usual list of holiday events, is also now underway.

Levi Cosker, young carer programme lead with TENNE South Tyneside Young Carers, says: “Lockdown has brought a lot of challenges for all of us, but they’ve been especially acute for young carers who’ve been faced with already-difficult situations becoming even more challenging.

“We’ve adapted the ways in which we work to make sure we’re still there for our services users and being able to make this fantastic app available to them is already having a very positive impact.

“Young people are naturally comfortable with digital communication and the app makes it easier for them to flag up issues with which they need help which they might not otherwise have wanted to talk to anyone about.

“This then means we can signpost the young carers towards help that’s available, get the right sort of support in place and identify gaps in our service provision that we can take steps to fill.

“The app is easy to use, makes lots of information available in a single place and has been a huge blessing in the current circumstances, and we’re very grateful for Newcastle Building Society’s contribution towards allowing our young carers to access it.”

Stewart Nicol, manager at Newcastle Building Society’s South Shields branch, adds: “The level of responsibility that these young people take on is difficult for most of us to comprehend and becomes even more impressive in the current climate.

“TENNE South Tyneside Young Carers’ support for them is extremely important and we’re very pleased to be adding to the resources it can make available to its service users.”

The funding for the project has been provided by the Newcastle Building Society Community Fund at the Community Foundation, which was set up to offer grants to charities and community groups located in or around the communities served by the Society’s branch network.

Since its launch in 2016, Newcastle Building Society’s Community Fund has also contributed over £2.1m in grants and partnerships with the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation and the Princes Trust. The grants are so far estimated to have had a positive impact on more than 151,000 people.

In response to the coronavirus outbreak, the Society also made a £100,000 contribution to the £1m appeal set up by the Tyne and Wear Community Foundation for its Coronavirus Recovery and Response Fund.

The Newcastle Building Society Community Fund is run in association with the Community Foundation Tyne & Wear and Northumberland.