In December Carers Trust formally launched the Time to be Heard campaign at the Houses of Parliament. Young adult carers came along to talk with MPs, Peers and other decision makers who can influence the lives of young adult carers.
One of these decision makers was Les Ebdon, the Director of an organisation called the Office of Fair Access (OFFA).
OFFA’s role is to look at all universities charging over £6000 per year tuition fees to make sure no student is put off going to university or unable to do as well as they can whilw they are studying. Universities show what they are doing by filling in something called an access agreement. If OFFA believes they could be doing more they can fine universities and tell them what they have to do to improve before they are allowed to charge over £6000 per year. Continue reading
You may have noticed that Carers Trust been very busy with the Fair Start Campaign. Some of you may already be familiar with it but, for those that aren’t, it’s about young carers being given some extra financial help at school, via government funding called the Pupil Premium, in order to fulfil their potential. Continue reading
For a few weeks every autumn the news is full of stories from the party conferences of the three main parties – analysis of the leaders speeches (and what they did or maybe didn’t say), rumours of potential leadership bids from political rivals and news pundits trying to ascertain the mood of the conference delegates.
However there is much more to party conference season than the short snippets that get shown on the news. It’s a really important opportunity for us to speak to key decision makers and to talk about the needs of carers.
In September and October Carers Trust’s Policy Team attended the Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat Party Conferences in Manchester, Birmingham and Glasgow. Continue reading
This week I’m in up in Manchester at the Labour Party conference. To kick off my Monday, I’ve been at a meeting in Manchester City Hall organised by Action for Children , looking at the impact the current economic situation is having on children and families and what Labour should do if it’s elected next time. There was a great turn out and real support from MPs, including Lisa Nandy MP one of the shadow education ministers. My table was chaired by Pat Glass, MP for North West Durham, whose commitment to education issues is second to none.
Each group had case studies to discuss, and as it turns out, 3 of the tables were discussing a young carers issue. Whilst all were supportive of young carers, I was a bit worried by the feedback, which suggests to me that all of us working to support young carers need to get our messages out more clearly.
In the case study, the young carer involved was facing cuts in her local young carers service. It became clear in the room that many people don’t really have the full picture on what young carer services do. I think there’s still a perception that young carers services just provide fun activities for young people. Some participants were saying, well young carers services are all very well, but actually all sort of other services should be intervening to help the child, like education.
Of course, this is exactly what most young carers services do, using a whole family approach, pulling together all the organisations and professionals to make sure that the outcomes for that child and that family are as positive as possible. Sometimes the young carers worker is the only person looking at the family as a whole. They also work with schools, doing outreach work and supporting schools to identify and support young carers. Our schools resource encourages schools to put the policies and practice in place which we know can really make a difference.
However the other thing which was a bit worrying was that the people in the room didn’t seem to be asking the question of why the young person was in a caring role in the first place, and what impact that was having on them. We need to challenge the assumption that it’s OK to rely on a child or young person to provide care. Whilst most young carers want to help, and the caring they are doing may be fine for them at the moment, this should never be at the expense of their own childhood. If the kinds or extent of caring tasks they are carrying out is having a negative impact, then this needs to be addressed urgently. It’s right that families should all pitch in to support each other, but children have a right to be children, first and foremost.
One of the problems we face is that where local authority care budgets are cut, then if someone has care needs, that care still has to be provided by someone- and it inevitably falls to friends and family to provide it. This is hard enough for adults, and we know many are struggling to cope with cuts in services and family finances. We need to make the point crystal clear that it is never acceptable to expect a child to fill the gap in care which is left when services are cut.
79% of young carers were worried about reaching 18 as there were no services to support them through that transition period while continuing to care between childhood and adulthood. Help us support young adult carers by voting for us as Co-operative’s Charity of the Year.
On Thursday, Oftsed published a report on how the Pupil Premium is being used. The pupil premium is a good thing. It means that schools with disadvantaged children get more money, hopefully to spend on the things which will enable those children to succeed. Things like an extra teaching assistant for example, or breakfast clubs maybe. Although half the schools said they think it is having a positive impact, few could back this up.
However, for it to do its job it needs to be spent in the right way, and targeted at the kids who need it. As with so many other things, it is not ringfenced and schools can spend the money in any way they wish. And I understand that schools need so many things. I live in one of the poorest boroughs of London. Luckily the secondary school down the road from me managed to sneak in as one of the last schools to benefit from the money made available by the last Government to upgrade some of the tattiest school estate. It’s made a huge difference. It’s no good saying here’s a small amount of money to raise attainment if the school building is falling down round all your ears. However, somehow we need to make sure that the Pupil Premium money is used to benefit those it is intended to.
Although being a young carer in its own right doesn’t qualify for the pupil premium, a high promotion of young carers are eligible for free school meals because their family lives on a low income. Our paper last year showed how using just some of that money to support young carers would make a massive difference. Read our pupil premium and young carers paper here to find out how a small amount of money – to support a member of staff to be a young carers lead, for example, or to have a young carers worker running a few support sessions can really make a difference.
Note: Danni Manzi, guest blogger this week, is young carers’ lead at The Princess Royal Trust for Carers and Chair of the National Young Carers Coalition.
Young carers are hitting the headlines today. The BBC has found that 700,000 young people identified themselves as young carers – four times as many as the last set of official statistics.
The 2001 census identified 175,000 young carers which we always knew was a vast underestimation. It asked parents to complete the survey on behalf of their child – many either don’t recognise the caring role their child has, or they don’t want to disclose it for fear of intervention from services. Also the census only asked about physical disability, it didn’t refer to mental health, substance misuse or HIV/AIDS so it missed out on a significant number of young people that provide care for parents in these situations.
The new BBC figures are just a start. In our experience, we know just how hard it is for young carers to recognise themselves as such and to come forward for the help they need. So it’s very likely that there are many more young carers than the 700,000 identified by the BBC, especially when there is stigma (perceived or real) surrounding the condition of the person they care for.
It’s important that young carers feel able to come forward and tell people they are carers. Schools have a vital part to play in the identification and support of young carers. Social care does too. Often just a small amount of help, put into place early enough, can really reduce the caring a young person does and help them to cope. But our worry is that with cuts in funding, services will be less able to support young carers and their families; it’s likely that now, only when a caring role has caused damage to a young carer’s health and well-being, will services be able to help.
We’re urging local and national governments to not cut funding to services that support young carers, including funding for dedicated young carers’ services that do so much for so many young carers across the UK.
At The Trust, we work really hard every day to raise awareness of young carers needs’. Sometimes it feels like we’re getting nowhere and then out of the blue we’re handed a golden ticket. Today might just be one of those days.
Let’s hope that everybody is listening!
Young carers can find online support on www.youngcarers.net
If you are working with young carers you can access info and resources on http://professionals.carers.org/young-carers
They call it conference season as though it’s something that everybody experiences like other seasons but it’s more like a conference cocoon. Politicians, party members, journalists and lobbyists all hemmed into the one ‘secure zone’ around a conference centre as the people of Liverpool, Manchester and then Birmingham carried on their daily lives around us.
I left the Conservative conference and read that it was “dominated” by the child benefit announcement. Try telling that to the people attending vigorous debates on health and the NHS; or those on climate change, or international aid, or transport, or foreign trade. There are literally hundreds of debates at each party conference with virtually every issue being covered.
Party conferences are a bubble that you come out of to find an outside world that has a very different conception of “what is happening” inside. Additionally, the people in the ‘inside’ are different; they are the extreme. Party members, single issue campaigners, journalists, and full time politicians are all at the ‘extreme’ in terms of how much politics takes over their life. And then we put them all in the place!!!
They attend breakfast meetings together, a debate at lunchtime, a roundtable discussion in the afternoon, a reception with speeches in the evening and then drink together in the same bar talking about politics. It strikes me that this might be what it is like for MPs most of the time – politics taking over their whole life.
It is a surreal existence and one that I don’t think is very healthy. I instinctively needed an escape so found myself seeing some Biennial art installations/exhibits in Liverpool; visiting the Lowry and Imperial War Museum North in Manchester, and visiting a remembrance shrine in Birmingham and meeting a mate for a pint in his local. Even at the conferences I found myself going to debates on international aid and environmentalism.
Was I wrong to do this? Should I have spent every minute pressing the case of carers, which is my responsibility and duty? Some will say yes, which I understand. But, I think the variety of experience is enriching and has value in itself.
If I hadn’t, I wouldn’t know that ensuring transparency of how national funds are spent locally increased the amount of aid spent for what it was intended from 20% to 84% in Uganda (rings bells regarding Carers’ Strategy monies). Or that domestic fuel bills could rise significantly over the decade because it costs twice as much to build a coal power station that captures emissions to one that doesn’t and we will only build these the ‘clean’ ones in future (will the winter fuel payment become ever more necessary?). Or that my mate is working on developing a drug which increases the ability of Parkinson’s to control their movements and general motor functions.
We lose something by ignoring all that is around us, and whilst I am very fortunate to experience what is around me, I am not sure MPs are.
The next few blogs will tell you a bit more of what actually happened rather than my musings on the lives of MPs.
As a student of both politics and history at school and university I remember being fascinated by coalition governments, the opportunities and challenges that faced them and hoped that a coalition government might happen in my lifetime.
I hear a good friend reminding me: “Danni, be careful what you wish for”.
The optimist in me sees a political landscape filled with consensus-seeking, compromise and opportunity. The pessimist suspects a series of stalemates and dead ends and (at least) two sets of opinions, views (and egos!) that make change difficult to achieve.
I, like many others, wonder how it’s all going to pan out but more importantly what this will mean for carers and young carers throughout the UK.
One of our election asks was that there should be more support for young carers in school. We know that for many children and young people, being a carer has a detrimental impact on their education and experience of school life, and this is evidenced by the results of our recent survey of young carers aged 6-18.
700 young carers took part and the findings make grim reading:
- Nearly half of the young carers who took part in the study said there was not a single teacher at their school who knew they were a young carer.
- 60% said that they do not think their teacher would understand what life was like for them
- 70% agreed with the statement that “being a young carer has made their life more difficult”
- More than two thirds reported being bullied at school
What is The Trust doing about this? Firstly, in partnership with The Children’s Society (politicians take note: it can be done), The Trust has developed a new information pack ‘Supporting Young Carers: a resource for schools’ to help staff identify and support young carers more effectively, free to download from www.carers.org/professionals from May 2010.
Secondly, and crucially, the Trust will work quickly to get to grips with new ministerial teams, policies and personalities. Both the Tories and the Liberal Democrats have school reform on their agenda, and the Prime Minister spoke on Wednesday of “rebuilding family, rebuilding community, above all, rebuilding responsibility in our country”. The Trust will be asking the new administration to take a long, hard look at these statistics and use their powers to ensure that young carers are supported in their school and community, and that where there is illness or disability in a family, the whole family is supported. We want a coalition government that takes a shared and joint responsibility for meeting young carers’ needs, whoever they are and wherever they live.
Danni Manzi, Policy and Development Manager for Young Carers (England and Wales) at The Princess Royal Trust for Carers, is guest blogger this week