Posted: 28 January 2016

Young carers: you can make change happen

I was a young carer from the ages of six or seven to 12 years old. I was caring for my mum who suffered from depression. Unfortunately, she passed away in November 2008 which brought my responsibilities as a young carer to an abrupt end.

I joined Young Carers in Focus (YCiF) in 2011 and that is where I became involved in the campaign locally and nationally to raise awareness of young carers and improve their lives and empower them legally. 

My time with YCiF has been dominated by the recent changes to the Children and Families Act and the Care Act in which young carers have been granted the right to a ‘whole family’ assessment – which means social services asking the right questions to find out if there are children providing care for a family member with a physical disability, a mental health issue or who has a substance misuse issue.

Being involved with YCiF encouraged me to persue a career in law and I am currently studying Law at Lincoln University. Without this experience, I doubt that my application would have looked as exciting! My hope in the future is to use my legal knowledge and advance young carers’ rights further.

A hidden army

Young carers are a force to be reckoned with and they have the right to a voice, to expression, to support just as much as everyone else, if not more so because the work that they undertake is all completely and utterly voluntarily.

They are a hidden army that is currently helping to keep the NHS afloat by saving it an estimated £2 billion a year. 

The law is a powerful thing, and I hope that, with the appropriate knowledge, young carers will feel more ready to fight for their own rights and the rights for the people they care for.

I hope that any young carers will download the YCiF Influencing Change Toolkit will get access to the relevant knowledge (e.g. what their rights are, especially under various conventions such as the UN Rights of a Child) that they need to empower themselves legally.

It will give them reassurance that they are not alone in their situation and that there are hundreds of thousands of other young people are in similar situations because reassurance, I believe, is one of the key things that helps young people take the initiative and control their lives.

Many of the people that I have spoken to, professional or not, have been surprised by the sheer number of young carers nationally.  But, there are many, many more hiding under the radar.

Changing the future

The sort of change that we aim to bring about is not going to happen overnight. If it did, all of our jobs would be so, so, so much easier. It will take time. It will take a lot of repeating ourselves and it will be hard. That needs preparing for. Baby steps. Because when you gather a lot of passionate, determined people, all working towards the same goal, change will come.

To young carers I would say influencing change nationally and locally will also equip you with so many skills like public speaking, letter and email writing and confidence that employers beg for nowadays. It will take a lot of hard work and dedication from various people but it all pays off in the end. When both Acts passed their second reading, I cannot tell you how exciting that was to hear because that meant that young carers have now being recognised and empowered.

 

By Becky - Guest bloggers