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 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
You might not have noticed it as it came and went, but yesterday, Monday the 18 November 2013, was a historic day for young carers in England.
As you might have seen in a previous blog, the work we have been doing to ensure young carers have their rights recognised in law has finally paid off. Following the statement from the Secretary of State, the Government put forward an amendment to the Children and Families Bill that will mean young carers , on the appearance of need, will have a right to assessment and to having their needs met. This is an enormous step forward. The amendment was debated last week, and technically, it passed on Monday. The law, we expect, will be passed in full in the New Year, and will come into force in 2015. For the first time, in law, young carers will be recognised. 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
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.
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.
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.
Last week saw the Carers Trust policy team wending our weary way back from Birmingham at the close of Conservative Party conference, after 3 weeks of trying to get our message across to local and national politicians and party members.
As members of the Care and Support Alliance, Carers Trust has been lobbying hard to make sure that the new Care and Support Bill promotes the rights of carers, and the draft Bill does make significant progress towards this (although there are some issues with how it affects young carers). There were positive noises from all three parties and their three main leaders on these issues – Andy Burnham for Labour as well as Norman Lamb for the Lib Dems and Jeremy Hunt the new Secretary of State – that this is an important issue. They all said a great deal about the importance of integrating health and social care – the holy grail we’ve been pursuing for years – although I’m not sure any of them came up with anything which makes me confident this will be achieved. All three said we need a cross-party approach to the future funding of social care, whether this is through what Andrew Dilnot proposed or otherwise. It’s too important an issue to play politics with, and I hope they will follow through with what they say.
The three conferences had very different feels to them. The Liberal Democrats, in the howling gales and rain of blustery Brighton felt a bit lost and despondent. Labour felt more positive and confident than they have done in the last couple of years – perhaps reflecting a feeling that they are beginning to find themselves again. The Conservative feel was quite strident and very much felt like they meant to push forward.
Conservative conference for me, and anything positive that was said about how we can get services to work better for carers, was totally overshadowed by George Osborne’s speech, where he stated the Tories’ intention to cut further swathes of the order of £10 billion off the benefits budget. Cameron backed him up, and tried to make us feel like he’s just an ordinary bloke – “There is nothing complicated about me” he said, “ I believe in working hard, caring for my family and serving my country.”
Well other people believe that too, but sometimes they can’t work because they’re caring, or because they’re disabled, or because there aren’t any jobs. For carers, family and friends come first, often way before their own needs. Often they can’t work because they’re putting someone else first, saving the country billions in care costs. Carers are not, as George Osborne suggested, lying in bed doing nothing expecting others to pay their way for them. It’s an insult to suggest it.
Carers can’t live on nothing. There’s only so far you can stretch a budget, and with costs increasing the Government are even talking about not increasing benefits in line with inflation. Many people are living right at the margins already.
This is no way to treat people. Further cuts to benefits for carers and disabled people are an outrage.
Find out more about the hardest Hit campaign against welfare benefit cuts here: http://thehardesthit.wordpress.com/
Scottish YC Festival gives young carers the chance to take part in activities they often miss out on
Ahead of the 2012 Scottish Young Carers Festival which took place on 17, 18 and 19 August, we and the Scottish Young Carers Services Alliance commissioned research by Ipsos MORI Scotland comparing young carers’ leisure time with the Schools Adolescent Lifestyle and Substance Use Survey (SALSUS).
The results demonstrated substantial differences between the lives of young carers and other children and young people. From our survey, we found out that 60% of young carers were caring for more than 20 hours a week and missing out on time with their friends, taking part in sports and other leisure activities – read the press release here.
We and the Scottish Young Carers Services Alliance have been running the festival, which is funded by the Scottish Government, since 2008. For years, young carers have been saying to us – we want the festival to last for more than one night (and funnily enough, lots of them ask for it to run for a week…), so thanks to increased Government funding this year we were able to extend it to two nights.
There is no doubt the festival takes a lot of hard work. Pre-festival, we visit young carers’ groups across Scotland and ask them; what do you want to see at this year’s young carers festival? First of all, there’s the ‘nice stuff’ – the five-aside football, the music workshops and cupcake decorating lessons – all the activities young carers may not get the opportunity to try or do regularly in their day-to-day lives.
Secondly, the chance to take a break from caring and spend a few days being normal children and young people shouldn’t be underestimated. Again, feedback from previous festivals has taught us that those coming along really relish meeting up with others who are in the same situation. As one young carer puts it, “I don’t need to explain my situation to them”.
A crucial part of the festival is the chance to take a temperature check on the services and policies that affect young carers.
The national strategy for young carers is two years old. At the festival, we ask young carers questions designed to find out how the good intentions of the survey are working on the ground. We invite ministers, politicians and other people who make decisions about services and policies to come to the festival and speak with young carers. We organise a question and answer session and those attending the festival aren’t shy about putting their points across and stating opinions, which makes the whole exercise incredibly worthwhile.
Festivals can be big business these days. Those attending can expect to pay out lots of money for the privilege of seeing big bands and camping in a muddy field. Our wee festival is very cheap and cheerful, but nevertheless, still viewed as the highlight of the calendar for Scotland’s young carers who come from as far afield as Orkney and the Scottish Borders and everywhere in between. The atmosphere is incredible and the smiling, happy faces a real reward.
Long may the Scottish Young Carers Festival continue!
If you were anything like me when I was a teenager, then you’ll have thought it was pretty tough. Pressure all round – to be the same as your friends and fit in, to try to look good despite the spots, to succeed in exams, and all the hormones and other challenges that go with growing up and finding your place in the world.
To be honest I had it pretty easy. Young carers have got all this plus their caring responsibilities – perhaps looking after a mum or dad with a mental health problem, or a health condition like MS or cancer or a sibling with a disability, or looking after the other kids and the house because mum or dad aren’t able to. We know that one of the main caring roles young carers take on is emotional support – extremely demanding on a young person not yet sure of their emotions themselves . Although many young carers can and do succeed despite the difficulties, many others lose out on school, miss opportunities to develop friendships, miss chances to take part in activities which others take for granted.
Education Maintenance Allowance was one benefit that really helped young carers. For those young carers that bit of cash helped them stay at school and gave them a chance. That money wasn’t an extra luxury – it was money which formed an essential part of their family income. We know, because we asked them. EMA was quietly whipped away in England and Wales with no consultation, in the early days of the Coalition Government ( it still remains in Scotland). The Government said it was ineffective. I don’t know how they came to this conclusion seeing as they didn’t really ask.
Today Barnardo’s have published a reporting looking at the impact of the replacement 16-19 Bursary, which some young people can get, but misses out many thousands of young carers who previously would have qualified for EMA. The term they use is “disastrous”. One young carer called Foram who looks after her mother with bipolar disorder is in desperate straits:
Foram frequently misses meals or alternates eating with her sister who is in the year above her. They are putting their own health at risk to hide the financial situation from their mother. Not surprisingly, Foram is suffering from depression and anxiety herself.
The poorest students are being failed and young carers, in particular, miss out and may have to drop out of school. And of course young carers in full time education can’t get Carers Allowance either.
I wonder how anyone thinks a young carer is supposed to survive let alone flourish when they’re wiped off the map of financial support. Barnardo’s suggest all 16-19s in full time education who used to be on free school meals should get the bursary – that would pick up young carers on low incomes and would cost less than EMA did. To give young carers a chance at a future, that sounds cheap to me.
Barnardo’s report “Staying the course” is at http://www.barnardos.org.uk/stayingthecourse.pdf