Young carers firmly on Children and Families Bill agenda
After 6 months of working behind the scenes putting together the evidence, the Children and Families Bill finally hit the House of Commons recently, in the form of the second reading debate.
Emma, our Senior Policy and Parliamentary Officer, has been working her socks off getting briefings written and circulated to MPs to let them know what they need to do to make a significant change for young carers.
The odd thing is that usually when you write a briefing, you’re writing about what’s in a Bill—not what’s absent. And that’s the thing: the Bill is absolutely silent on young carers. Unless some amendments are added in, we’re going to end up in a situation where adult carers’ rights are improved (a good thing, of course) but young carers’ rights are left behind. This is untenable.
Work of National Young Carers Coalition pays off
We have spent months meeting with officials and the Minister, and with our partners in the National Young Carers Coalition (which includes Barnardos, Family Action, Action for Children, and The Children’s Society), and I like to think we are becoming a force to be reckoned with.
We’ve had positive words of support. The Scrutiny Committee of the Care and Support Bill, in a recent session, made it very clear that they think we’ve got a very good point.
Still, it wasn’t guaranteed we’d get a good hearing. There were lots of important issues debated today – adoption and fostering, special educational needs, family justice – all things that need their air time. But it was fantastic to listen to the debate and hear the support for young carers.
Encouraging words of support from MPs
Barbara Keeley MP, a real champion for carers, managed to make a point during the Minister Ed Timpson’s speech, which resulted in him acknowledging the importance of the issue and saying that he would “continue to listen” to us.
This may not sound like much, but in parliamentary language it means there’s at least a chance we might get somewhere with this. And responding to the Minister’s speech, Stephen Twigg MP laid out that we can’t have a position where young carers have lesser rights than their adult counterparts.
Many other MPs spoke. Some had more time to spend on this issue than others, but we’re grateful to all who showed their support. The next step is Committee stage where we’ll need to push the amendments we need – and we will need strong parliamentary pressure, so if you care about this, write to your MP.
There’s a long way to go yet and today was only the beginning. But it was definitely a good start.