TWO young siblings from West Oxfordshire who look after their mum have spoken about the importance of speaking out when in the role of a young carer.

Sophie and Ben Harris, 13 and 11, were thrust into their roles after their mum, Hannah, was diagnosed with a life-changing lung disease six years ago.

It comes after the head of a support charity warned there was ‘nowhere near’ enough support for young carers in Oxfordshire.

Managing director of Be Free Young Carers John Tabor has said the number of young carers across the county is soaring, with his own organisation seeing an increase of a third over the past year.

With Oxfordshire’s Young Carers Service also identifying 2,700 young carers since 2008, 450 of those in the past year alone, Mr Tabor has concerns about coping with the rising numbers.

Sophie and Ben from North Leigh appeared on This Morning earlier this year and were given the chance to meet their heroes – England women's goalkeeper Siobhan Chamberlain and pop star Olly Murs – as a reward for their caring efforts.

Hannah Harris, 36, was diagnosed with with hypersensitivity pneumonitis, a lung disease that has left her with 70 per cent capacity in one lung and none in the other.

She said: “It was a really tough time. The kids were both really young at the time and for them to see their mum go from fine to in hospital most of the time was hard.

“It’s a struggle still but it has got better as they’ve grown older.”

When Sophie went to secondary school she was given advice about being a young carer and was keen to get involved right away.

Sophie said: "When my mum first became ill I didn’t realise what being a young carer was, but as I got older I realised the effect and how I would have to help out more."

Her brother Ben said the decision to become a young carer for his mum was easy.

He said: "I’m really happy to do it because she’s done so much for us."

As well as caring for their mum, the pair also encourage other young carers to speak out about their situations. Sophie became the media rep for charity Carers Trust.

She said: "I want all young carers to know it’s not something you should be scared to talk about.

Be Free Young Carers, formerly known as South and Vale Young Carers before being rebranded this year, supports about 450 young carers up to the age of 25.

Mr Tabor said: “We are experiencing heavy demand and we’re struggling to keep up with it. We come across families that are totally unknown and under the radar of schools, social services, and all agencies – and they’re really struggling.

“There is nowhere near enough support for young carers."

He said the surge in numbers could be down to schools becoming better equipped to identify young carers, and warned that the problem was likely to worsen over time.

Oxfordshire County Council spokesman Owen Morton said: “The day-to-day commitments of being a young carer can make it very hard to keep on top of schoolwork or find time for activities outside of school.

“There could also be issues with school attendance linked to caring commitments, and it’s important that schools are aware of these extra pressures so they can provide the support young carers need.”