Penguins, pledges and pinky swears

For me the day began with a walk past eagles with their wings outstretched, catching some rays in the early morning sun. I was heading to a room in London Zoo. In a few hours 40 young carers and young adult carers would turn up ready for a day of discussion, questions and campaigning. The NHS was bringing together important decision-makers such as Simon Stevens (Chief Executive of NHS England), Neil Hunt (Chief Executive of the Royal College of GPs), Wendy Nicholson (Professional Officer School & Community Nursing at Department of Health) and Xane Panayiotou (Department for Education). These decision-makers are involved in areas such as school nurses, GPs and new legislation to give stronger rights to young carers. Others oversaw big chunks of the NHS, such as services for people with long-term conditions and improving patient experience. They were coming to the event to listen to young carers and young adult carers in order to act and improve the NHS for them.

Young-carers1The day had been planned by a group of 20 young carers and young adult carers. They had put together a programme that included personal stories and a quiz with statistics about young carers. Everyone got to move around the room hearing people’s different perspectives in a speed dating exercise. There was another activity to get each person thinking through their years as a young adult, considering how different it might have been if they had been responsible for caring for someone. The day culminated in the NHS decision-makers being asked to make pledges. They made a commitment to act that very week and gave a statement of what they would do in the next 6 months. To seal the deal each decision-maker had their photo taken doing a pinky swear with a young carer or young adult carer. It was an incredible achievement for the young carers and young adult carers to explain to NHS decision-makers what they should do and get those commitments there on paper.

Already in the last few days there has been actions taken — blogs from young adult carers, blogs from NHS decision-makers, tweets for #thinkyoungcarer, photos and discussions about how young carers’ and young adult carers’ issues need to be given more thought when policies are developed. I am seeing signs that people who make decisions that shape the NHS, and the practices of NHS staff, understand young carers and young adult carers. They want to improve young carers’ experiences of the NHS.

This is really important but there was also another message on the day, that young carers and young adult carers can be relied on too much and that this has an impact on their health, educational outcomes and chances to work. The Care Act 2014, being implemented next year, will be so important if this change is going to be realised. Once this is in place, and awareness of young carers and young adult carers grows, the NHS should not ignore its responsibility to provide health services so that young carers and young adult carers are not taking on too much.

With the whirlwind of activities done and the pledges written I had lots to reflect on at the end of the day. Luckily I was able to do this while I had a look at the somersaulting penguins.

Chloe is Policy and Campaigns Officer (Young Carers and Young Adult Carers) at Carers Trust



November 5, 2014 - Posted by | Health, Young carers | , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. Reblogged this on Sincere Blog and commented:
    Great post, so proud of the young carers and the young adult carers involved! :0)

    Comment by antoniasincere | November 6, 2014 | Reply

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