Fairer Scotland

The 2015 Scottish Young Carers Festival

August 15, 2015 by No Comments | Category Carers

For many young carers, the Festival provides the only break they have all year.

For many young carers, the Festival provides the only break they have all year.

Lorna Goodwin (Scottish Young Carers Festival Coordinator at Carers Trust Scotland).

Take hundreds of young carers, dozens of politicians and decision-makers – add in some workshops, consultations (and a lot of fun) and throw it all in a muddy field in the Scottish Borders. The result is the Scottish Young Carers Festival (SYCF) which has become a highlight of the summer for all who attend.

Last week we held the eighth annual Festival and welcomed 650 young carers from all across the country to the Broomlee Outdoor Centre in West Linton, the venue for the three-day event.

Young carers aged eight to 18, from as far afield as Orkney to Argyll, took part in the Festival which is organised by Carers Trust Scotland and supported by a steering group which includes:

  • Action for Children
  • Barnardos
  • Carers Scotland
  • Children 1st
  • The Scottish Young Carers Service Alliance
  • Shared Care Scotland.

The aim is to provide young carers with a break from their caring responsibilities; for some it will be the only break they have all year. It’s also a chance for them to meet other young carers and have fun and – crucially – giving them the opportunity to have their say on what could make life better for Scottish young carers.

Who are the Young Carers?

The Festival radio station, run by Young Carers...

The Festival radio station, run by Young Carers…

The Scottish Government estimates there are 29,000 young carers in Scotland. However as they are a difficult group to identify, it’s likely the true number is much higher. Young carers are children and young people, often caring for someone in their family suffering from an illness or disability, or affected by mental health issues or addiction.

They frequently take on practical and emotional caring responsibilities that would normally be expected of an adult – putting caring before their own needs – but often don’t have an outlet for their questions and fears.

In the public debate about what a Fairer Scotland should look like, we need to ensure the needs of children and young people are included in that vision, especially groups like young carers, whose extra responsibilities make them vulnerable to missing out on opportunities and experiences that every child should have.

Among the many stories we hear from young carers, common themes crop up. Young carers can feel isolated, lonely and guilty. They worry a lot and don’t feel listened to. Very often they tell us they want their role as a young carer to be recognised and acknowledged, and want to be asked for their opinion about issues affecting the cared-for person.

Political speed-dating
Among the guests at last week’s Festival, which is funded by the Scottish Government, were many MSPs including Jamie Hepburn, Minister for Sport, Health Improvement and Mental Health.

Let the political speed dating commence!

Let the political speed dating commence!

This year we ran a political speed-dating session where local and national politicians including the Minister, experts in health and education, and Tam Baillie (Scotland’s Commissioner for Children and Young People) heard first-hand from young carers about the daily challenges they face, and what they want decision-makers to do to help.

These direct discussions are a crucial part of the Festival, giving the young carers a voice and linking them up with local and national decision-makers.

Festival actions
Many changes have come about over the years from consultations and feedback at the Festival, including:

  • the introduction of a Young Carers Authorisation Card
  • a primary school toolkit to help teachers identify young carers
  • a dedicated worker to help young carers look after their own mental health and wellbeing
  • a pilot project to help carers aged 16-plus move on to further education, training or employment.

Discussions with national decision makers are a crucial part of the Festival, giving the young carers a voice...

Discussions with national decision makers are a crucial part of the Festival, giving the young carers a voice…

The issues raised by young carers at the Festivals in 2008 and 2009 were also used to inform the first ever Scottish Young Carers Strategy, believed to be the only one of its kind in Europe.

Towards a Fairer Scotland?
In the public debate about what a Fairer Scotland should look like, we need to ensure the needs of children and young people are included in that vision, especially groups like young carers, whose extra responsibilities make them vulnerable to missing out on opportunities and experiences that every child should have.

The closing band, 'Bags of Rock' bring this year's Festival to a close...

The closing band, ‘Bags of Rock‘ bring this year’s Festival to a close…

We know through feedback from young carers, that attending the Festival makes them feel more confident and gives them the chance to make friends with others who are in similar circumstances – and understand what their life is like.

A Fairer Scotland could build on the Festival’s three days of respite and engagement, with supportive policies and understanding communities that are carer-friendly all year round.


More information
Video, Young Carers Festival 2014
Highlights of the 2014 Young Carers Festival. A tremendous event, and an important one for today’s young carers…

Website, Carers Trust Scotland
Carers Trust Scotland (formerly The Princess Royal Trust for Carers) has been operating in Scotland since 1991. They are the largest provider of comprehensive carers support services in Scotland, reaching around 40,000 adult carers and more than 3,500 young carers from all groups and communities, through a unique network of independent carers centres and young carers services (Network Partners) throughout Scotland.



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