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
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. Continue reading
As part of our Care o’ Clock campaign to help raise awareness about the issues faced by young adult carers, young carers from Swindon Carers Centre recently put some questions forward to their MP Robert Buckland, to give him the opportunity to tell us about why he thinks young carers and young adult carers should be supported and what can be done to make a positive difference to their lives.
Robert Buckland MP has been working with Carers Trust to help ensure that the Government changes the law for young carers so that they stronger rights to assessment and support.
Young carers: What do you think are the biggest issues for young carers and their families in your area (Swindon) and across the country?
Robert Buckland MP: The recognition of their needs is the most important issue facing young carers and families in England. We know that the official number of young carers is only the tip of the iceberg because many are not identified, let alone receive the support that they need. Continue reading
I’m James Dadge and I’m the Policy and Campaigns Intern at Carers Trust. For the past few weeks I’ve been working with the young carers’ policy team and we’ve been out and about gathering the views of carers on the barriers they experience in education and employment.
Last Thursday we visited Nottingham University, who were holding an open day specifically for young carers and we finished off the week in the sunshine at the Young Carers Festival in Southampton.
First of all thank you to everyone who came and spoke to us at our stand. There was so much enthusiasm from carers wanting to engage and share their experiences. The Voice Zone at the Young Carers Festival was alive with activity and carers were bursting with opinions on each and every issue, which was excellent.
Events such as these provide a really important opportunity for carers to meet with peers facing the same issues and collectively make their voice heard. We were delighted to be there. Across the two days we had the chance to meet and listen to more than 160 young and young adult carers.
More than a third of the young carers we spoke to wanted more support from their teachers, reiterating the huge importance of consistent identification and support in schools. A young carer we spoke to said that teachers should “understand how hard being a young carer is and give me more support with homework”. Research by Carers Trust in 2010, found that 39% of young carers said that nobody in their school was aware of their caring role.
At the Nottingham University Young Carers event we asked young carers what might make it more difficult for them to go to college or university. 30% of young carers said that they felt that the biggest barrier would be finances. One young carer said: “My family is always having trouble with money and it’s always tight, so I know that it’s an important issue.”
We know that 14-25 year olds have really big decisions to make such as choosing A-Levels or college courses, moving out of home, getting a job or going to university. These big choices can be incredibly stressful for any young person to navigate let alone if you have caring responsibilities at home. Their responsibilities helping someone else mean that their own life choices are side lined consequently, there often isn’t time to learn about the opportunities open to them.
This has been a fantastic first step for our Time to be Heard campaign, a campaign we are delivering in partnership with The Co-operative to improve the support available within schools, colleges, universities, employment and communities for 14 -25 year olds. The Partnership intends to achieve real change by engaging with young adult carers to provide opportunities for them to use their voice.
We are also still seeking the views of young adult carers through our online survey. If you can, please take the time to share this link with any services that support young adult carers so we learn more about the issues they face and what support will help. I am really looking forward to engaging with more young carers through my time on the campaign, as it’s crucial that their views are heard by policy-makers.
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.
The voluntary sector is known for leading the way in partnership working and that was in evidence at the launch of the National Young Carers Coalition (NYCC), yesterday.
Hosted by Sir George Young, the event brought coalition partners, young carers and young adult carers, support workers and MPs together to celebrate the many achievements for young carers in recent years.
What have we got to celebrate?
The 2008 Carers Strategy has a dedicated chapter on young carers. The “Think Family” strategy and Extended Family Pathfinders focus strongly on young carers and their families. All steps in the right direction.
Then there’s the £1million funding announced at yesterday’s event to help young carers services look more at the needs of the whole family when supporting young carers.
But we can’t rest on our laurels.
There’s still lots to be done. Families, particularly where there is mental health illness or substance misuse, are still reluctant to approach services for help because of the stigma attached to these illnesses and because they worry that their children may be taken into care.
Gaps in children’s and adults’ services mean that too many families are still going unsupported and young carers continue to find themselves in inappropriate caring roles.
Another challenge for services and professionals supporting carers – and for the NYCC to address – is the 290,000 young adult carers aged 16-24 in the UK.
Professor Saul Becker talked yesterday about research that highlights how many of these young adult carers fear the loss of support when they turn 18.
Progress in education, employment and training can be seriously hindered by a life with caring responsibilities and this age group are particularly affected by the challenges of trying to balance caring whilst carving out a life of their own.
And this throws partnership working back into the spotlight.
Adult’s and children’s services need to think about how they are going to work together to make sure young adult carers don’t get left out on a limb when they turn 18.
The words of one young adult carer who spoke yesterday ring in my ears today: “Just because I’m 18, it doesn’t mean I stop caring… so services shouldn’t either”.
Rest assured that this message was heard loud and clear yesterday and is another thing The Princess Royal Trust for Carers and its coalition partners has on its “To Do” list.
Danni Manzi is Young Carers Lead at The Princess Royal Trust for Young Carers and Chair of the National Young Carers Coalition (NYCC)