"Rachel brings some exceptional skills to the role. "
Michelle Smith CEO
Blackpool has a new Young Carers’ Champion – Rachel Lambert.
The hotshot photographer and crackshot markswoman has sights firmly set on raising awareness for carers – as someone who’s been “on the receiving end”, as she puts it.
Rachel explains: “If you support carers you help those they care for too. It goes hand in hand.”
Rachel, 26, is a former star pupil of leading local special educational needs school Highfurlong where her mum Joan teaches.
Rachel was born with achondroplasia, a form of dwarfism, and spent two years of her early life on a ventilator.
Today she leads a very active life very much on her own terms with the support of family, friends and her own carers.
“I don’t think disability should stand in your way. If you want to do something find a way of doing it.”
Rachel was nominated as a Positive Role Model in the Disability Category of the National Diversity Awards last year.
She’s already a charity ambassador, an accomplished photographer, sportswoman and performance artist.
Rachel’s a crackshot too, bagging a haul of gold and silver medals in shooting contests – using a tripod on a spring to counter balance the weight of the rifle while firing from her wheelchair at targets 10m away.
The former Blackpool Sixth Form student had what it took to become a Paralympian but focussed on her passion for photography instead, graduating from Lancaster University with an Honours degree.
Rachel plans to use that expertise along with social media skills in her year in office. She knows the ropes having worked as a volunteer there for six months. The charity also actively supports 16-19-year-old students at SEN schools across Blackpool on various work experience placement at local businesses.
“For me, it’s all about being treated equally,” says Rachel who will bring that sense of fair play and social justice to fighting the corner for young carers.
Rachel is also voluntary events and projects co-ordinator for the Ormerod Trust - working with people with learning disabilities.
Michelle Smith, chief executive of Blackpool Carers, pictured with Rachel above, said: “Rachel brings some exceptional skills to the role and a real determination to do something fresh and different. We think she will bring a unique perspective to the role of Young Carers’ Champion. She will make it her own."
Rachel concludes: “I know I’ve got some tough acts to follow and a busy year ahead. I’ve been on the receiving end of care so am determined to bring a fresh new approach."
Former young carers’ champions Tara Bragg, 22, and Liam Quinn, 17, both now apprentices at the charity, announced the new champ Rachel Lambert, 26, at the charity’s 1st Birthday Bash at Beaverbrooks House.
More than 200 people attended including Blackpool Mayor Coun Ian Coleman who has adopted Blackpool Carers Centre as his main civic charity for his year in office.
The party, which featured a spectacular themed cake, also celebrated the end of this year’s Cash Quest for Carers. In three months 24 teams, from the business and general community, as well as the centre itself, have raised more than £18k to fund the YCC post and allied services.
The Sandcastle WaterPark team, fronted by mascot Bling and marketing lead Mark Wilkins, made the biggest splash, raising £10k.
Carl Vidoretti of CV Maintenance Solutions won the Most Innovative Award after organising a bonus ball draw on social media to win a football shirt signed by Charlie Adam. Carl and fellow DIY SOS volunteer John Greene have also continued to work at the centre along with others from the programme.
The event featured presentations by staff and heart-warming testimonials by carers of all ages with the warmest applause won by a 13-year-old schoolboy who revealed how alone and broken he felt looking after his mum - and how different the whole family felt with support from Blackpool Carers Centre.
Blackpool Gazette Best of Health Carer of the Year Adam Simpson also spoke movingly about looking after his wife Laura.
The centre has seen a huge rise in referrals since the award-winning DIY SOS team took on the epic challenge of transforming a derelict landmark property on Newton Drive into Beaverbrooks House – as the new base of Blackpool Carers Centre – in June 2016. The sheer scale of the task inside and out saw the Big Reveal delayed. The wraps stayed on– long after the charity had moved in and started to build its own offices upstairs - until the Big Build for Children in Need was broadcast in November.
The help in kind given by 872 individuals and organisations – donating time, services and products to transform Beaverbrooks House – has been valued at £905,275.
And Blackpool’s young carers touched the hearts of 3.9m viewers – who in turn raised almost a third of a million for BBC Children in Need. It fell to former young carers Amy Gunniss and Camilla Ball, both trained social workers in their early 20s, to effectively front the charity’s case to the nation wth presenter Nick Knowles featuring many of the younger carers and those for whom they care. It proved powerful viewing and raised awareness of young carers - and indeed all carers - across the country.
The centre is now bout to embark on ambitious plans for the next stage of its growth - raising funds for a respite lodge (utilising an annexe which was used by the DIY SOS film crew as a base during production) for young carers from across the country to give them a break. It will also include a separate respite facility downstairs for dementia carers.
AT A GLANCE IMPACT
- 4438 carers received support from the service this year
- 1008 carers received one to one support
- 15 ‘Smiles’ – grants from Miles of Smiles – were given to young carers during the year
- almost 80 per cent of carers reported an improvement in their caring role as a result of involvement with the charity
- 1440 total number of referrals received during the year
- 508 carers attended respite activities
- £19,263 in grants were awarded to carers
- £5 pays for food and activities for a young carer at youth club
- £10 pays for a young person with additional needs to attend a Grow to Eat session
- £15 pays for a six-week craft workshop for an adult carer
- £50 pays for a respite trip to a local garden centre for a group of 12 adult carers
- £100 pays for a four-week cookery workshop for a group of young adult carers
- £500 pays for an eight-week mental health awareness raising course for adult carers
- The charity is supported by 23 funders and awards.