More than 1700 young carers gather at a national festival to enjoy a break from caring.
Young carers from across England gathered at the biggest festival of its kind at the end of June to enjoy a weekend of music, arts, activities and a rare chance to take a break from their caring responsibilities.
The Children’s Society and YMCA Fairthorne Manor held the 14th annual Young Carers’ Festival, attracting the biggest-ever crowd of young carers this year, to give these children the chance to enjoy some downtime and forget their responsibilities for the weekend.
At the start of the summer, shocking new census data was published revealing that a staggering 166,000 children in England are caring for their parents, siblings and family members. We believe this is likely to massively underrepresent the true picture.
The festival also gives young carers the opportunity to meet and create a powerful, united voice about the issues they face, and to influence national policy and guidance for young carers and their families. This year’s festival happened just as Edward Timpson MP, the Children’s Minister, announced that the government will be developing greater support in law for young carers and their entire families.
We strongly believe that 2013 provides a once-in-a-generation opportunity for the government to consolidate key adult and children’s legislation to make sure children are prevented from taking on inappropriate caring roles, by assessing a whole family’s needs.
'Let’s lift the shadow of responsibility'
Celebrity designer Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen is backing our call for more support to be given to young carers.
‘I was nine when my father died. My mother had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis four years earlier and was left to bring up three children alone. So I can very much empathise with the life a young carer is forced to lead.
'There are tens of thousands of young carers out there, many of them hidden from view. We need to lift the shadow of responsibility and give these young carers back their childhoods.'
Star is 18 years old and a young carer. She talks about her experience of the Young Carers' Festival 2013.
‘The Young Carers’ Festival is brilliant. Because I look after my mum who has depression, it gives me time out to think about myself and reflect on what I want to do. Usually I’m a shoulder to cry on for my mum.
‘It means us “champions” can actually change things to help make life better in the future. The Young Carers’ Festival also gives me the opportunity to mix with new people I wouldn’t usually mix with – it’s great fun too.‘This is my second year as a Young Carers in Focus Champion. Being a champion gives me, and other young carers, an opportunity to get our voices heard, on both a local and a national level.
Please donate so we can continue to work for change for young carers. We want improved services for whole families where young carers live, to prevent them from becoming carers in the first place and missing out on their childhoods, education and future life opportunities.
‘I can also encourage other young carers at the festival to think about becoming champions themselves. The festival gives me time to be a young person, as being a young carer means I haven’t really had a childhood. I love it!’
Young Carers in Focus (YCiF) is an exciting four-year programme running until 2016, led by The Children’s Society and funded by the Big Lottery.
More than 200 young people are being recruited as ‘champions’ to help raise awareness about what life is like for young carers.
Messages from YCiF and the ‘champions’ will reach 450,000 young people, in over 9,000 schools, over four years, through the Young Carers in Focus website. This is a safe social network for young carers to log onto through their schools and it is open to all projects and schools to use.
It aims to give young carers a voice so they can share their experiences, improve public understanding about the issues they face and gain recognition and support.
Helping them share their stories, pictures and films, and talk about what matters to them.YCiF aims to help young carers by:
- Supporting them to get their voices heard to inform decision makers.
- Supporting them to have the sa
me opportunities for education, employment, training and leisure time, as their peers.
- Improving public awareness and understanding of family illness and disability, to promote positive attitudes towards young carers and their families, mitigating the stigma and discrimination.
- Encouraging local authorities, schools, GPs and young carers’ services to support the work of the project.
To find out more, visit the Young Carers in Focus website.
Young Carers in Focus (YCiF) is run in partnership with Rethink Mental Illness, YMCA Fairthorne Group, the Fatherhood Institute and DigitalME.
What you can do
Here’s what you can do to support young carers: write to your local councillor, council leader or local school chair of governors and ask them if their schools have a named contact to support young carers. At the same time, tell them about the Young Carers in Focus website – a safe social network for schools and young carers.