Sometimes 11-year-old Kai Fraser can’t go out to play with friends after school because he is helping to look after his little brother.
Kai is among almost 500 known young carers in Dundee who look after a family member.
With mum Michelle Keith he is a carer for Louis, 10, who has global developmental delay and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Often he has to put Louis’ needs first – helping him with homework or helping Michelle around the house while she tends to her younger son.
So when friends chap on the door often Kai is just too busy to join them.
However, thanks to work done by care organisations, public bodies and young carers themselves, Dundee children like Kai are better able to get the support they need than they were just a few years ago.
Michelle told us: “Kai helps Louis with things like his homework, he helps him tidy his bedroom, he helps him get his breakfast.
“He’s absolutely amazing.”
But she added: “It is tough for him sometimes.
“He will see his friends out playing and he knows what responsibilities he’s got in the house. A lot of his friends don’t understand that he has to stay in and help at home.”
While Kai is thriving at Dens Road Primary School, there are times when he’s not had enough sleep or he’s been unable to do his own homework.
It feels brilliant that there are people there that are the same as me and know what it’s like.”
Kai Keith, 11
But Michelle said: “His teachers are very understanding. He does go in tired some days and he will tell the teachers and they are aware of what it’s like at home.”
That’s because of progress in recent years in identifying and meeting the needs of schoolchildren caring for someone at home.
Kai is one of three identified young carers at his school and as well as opportunities to connect with peers, he receives fortnightly visits from a Carers of Dundee link worker.
He told us: “It feels brilliant that there are people there that are the same as me and know what it’s like.
“It can be tough a little bit (being a young carer) but most of the time it’s fine, I enjoy it.”
Clodagh Alexander is one of the young carers who has fought for better support for children like Kai.
The 19-year-old has cared for her father, who has congenital heart disease and severe arthritis, since the age of six.
With two other young carers she set up Young Carers Voice, a Dundee Carers Centre group for 14 to 18-year-olds, and helped implement new policy which ensures local schools recognise the needs of pupils with caring responsibilities.
The Dundee University student explained: “We felt like schools didn’t really understand what we were going through.
Now in every secondary school in Dundee there’s a young care coordinator and a young care ambassador. Most of the schools have a young carers group.”
Clodagh Alexander, 19, Young Carers Voice co-founder
“If you are late handing in homework, you don’t really want to have to explain why in front of the whole class.
“Sometimes you would be tired and teachers would moan at you for not paying attention.
“Now in every secondary school in Dundee there’s a young care coordinator and a young care ambassador. Most of the schools have a young carers group.”
Thomas Fleming, 19, who cares for his father who has epilepsy, is also part of Young Carers’ Voice and benefited from one-to-one support when he was a pupil at Baldragon Academy.
Being a young carer “made me grow up quicker,” he said.
“It’s easier to get through it with that support than without.”
Carers of Dundee is hosting a special event in V&A Dundee on Young Carers Action Day to showcase the role young carers play and the many organisations who support them.
It also projected images to mark the occasion on the Thorntons building, Marketgait, and Boots, Overgate.
Young carers like Clodagh and Thomas had, it said, driven substantial change in schools, colleges and the wider community, influencing how legislation is implemented locally, raising awareness and reducing isolation.
Sarah Boath, team manager of carers support services, said: “We are thrilled to be hosting this event at V&A Dundee, a national event that deserves to be showcased in this way.
“We look forward to see everyone’s showcase material and the contribution that all young carers have made to help raise awareness, help identify and provide support to other young carers.”
Scotland’s Minister for Mental Wellbeing and Social Care Kevin Stewart will attend the event. He said: “I, and everyone in the Scottish Government, hugely value the support provided by Scotland’s young carers.
“I know young carers are dealing with pressures that are already great, and may be experiencing increased pressure at this time.
“We want to ensure there is appropriate support for young carers and for young carers to know about this support, so that they can be children first and foremost.”
Young Carers Action Day is held annually by the Carers Trust – this year on March 16 – to raise awareness of the pressures and challenges faced and contribution made by young carers and young adult carers.
A special event in V&A Dundee hosted by Carers of Dundee will showcase the work done by young carers and the organisations who support them, from 10am to 5pm.
A carer is someone provides unpaid support to a family member or friend needed due to age, disability, long-term illness, mental health problems or addiction.