Scottish Young Carers Festival inspires friendship and fresh ideas
The Scottish Young Carers Festival is over for another year and this year it really was the biggest and best so far. This was our sixth Festival and over 800 young carers and their workers joined us at Broomlee Outdoor Centre in the Scottish Borders. The Festival runs Friday through to Sunday and each day is packed with events and activities for the young carers.
On Friday afternoon the buses started to arrive. It was so lovely to see young carers groups from across Scotland being reunited with each other. The Festival is a place where friendships are formed and most of them wouldn’t have seen each other since the previous year. To witness them cheering the buses as they arrived and hugging each other was a truly heart-warming moment. They immediately started to sign each other’s Festival t-shirts and excitedly look through their goody bags and at the programme to see what was in store for them.
The young carers are always full of energy when they arrive so we attempted to tire them out with a disco on Friday evening. It worked to a certain extent but they still started to stir at 5.30am on Saturday morning — much to the delight of the volunteers and support workers!
On Saturday we opened the YC Zone. This is a place where young carers go to share their views and opinions on what it’s like to be a young carer in Scotland. For the first time there was a queue outside the YC Zone on Saturday morning and within an hour the walls were filled with notes from young carers, which was really encouraging to see.
The young carers were given a further opportunity to air their views on Sunday, when key policy and decision-makers joined us. Guests included Michael Matheson MSP, Minister for Public Health, Aileen Campbell MSP, Minister for Children and Young People and Angela Constance MSP, Minister for Youth Employment. The guests and young carers really value this face-to-face time. It gives the young carers a unique platform to speak directly to the people who can really make a difference to their everyday lives.
On Sunday evening they started their journey home. They take with them new friends and memories that will see them through to next year and beyond. They leave with us their thoughts and ideas on how we can make their lives a little easier. It is now up to us to carry these forward.
It is difficult to sum up the experience of the Festival and the impact it has. I always try to take a moment during the Festival to really look at the young carers. What is clear to me is that the weight of the world seems to have temporarily been lifted from their shoulders. They are happy, relaxed and able to just be children and young people. To be a part of that is so rewarding.