Dan Morris, Head of Programmes tells his young carer story

22nd Feb 2024

I learnt I was a young carer at the tender age of 30 over coffee with Krista, our CEO. However, I had never considered that the role I had played was that of a carer; it was purely the way in which we survived.


I use the word survived loosely as I had an incredible mum who kept myself and two brothers on the straight and narrow, well, as easy as keeping three lads on the right path anyway. We were quickly instilled with the mindset that you must work hard to achieve and that it isn't going to be done for you. We were also taught to be accountable for our own actions, progress and mistakes.  


To add context, my dad was a class-A drug addict and later an alcoholic. There were many times throughout my childhood where we were unaffected - going on family holidays, attending sports clubs and living the life most children had. But there were other times where life was more chaotic - chasing dad's van around the West Howe estate, looking for a missing parent and arguments and 'aggro' at home. Add three teenage boys and a frustrated mum into the mix and at times, it could turn volatile. I voluntarily took the role of 'dad' in my dad's absence which was not appreciated by my younger brothers, but I had to do something to help. I was a sensible and responsible teenager, and on reflection, made decisions which were not ones which I probably wanted to make, but I know I needed to for the good of the family household. I was also encouraged to put myself out there and push myself but was probably quite reserved and unconfident at times - especially holding onto the knowledge I had about home and ensuring no-one knew about it. This led to developing some habits as a teenager - being overly organised, punctual, and presentable - which I have taken into my adult life. Some may see these traits as positives, but they have also been my kryptonite at times. I've learnt to harness these attributes and use them as strength over the last 10 years or so. If I have had support earlier on in life as a young carer, perhaps this revolution would have come sooner...


A little bit about me to add further context. I attended University, went into sports coaching, and finally ended up in Primary teaching for almost 10 years before transitioning to MYTIME where I have now become Head of Programmes. As a teacher, I had an insight into the lives of some young people and found many comparisons which I could empathise with. The support systems for young carers in school is significantly better than when I was in school. If I have had the ability to have spoken to someone about home in a secure environment, then I may have navigated certain situations differently and perhaps would have dealt with some of my underlying confidence issues which have taken some work to address over the last 10 years or so. 


The Level Up Programme offers schools the right level of support, guidance and autonomy to make a real difference for the young people in their school who may need that extra arm around the shoulder. Just knowing someone is there if needed can be enough for many. I share my story with people because I want to diminish the stigma around drugs, alcohol and addiction and prove that with hard work and support, you can make a difference no matter your background.