By Paul Traynor, Young Adult Carer Policy and Campaigns Officer for Carers Trust Scotland.

This week more than 100 young people will come together in Stirling for the first Young Adult Carers Summit in Scotland. It will be the biggest ever national gathering of young adult carers, aged 16 to 25.

Carers are those who care, unpaid, for a friend or family member who due to illness, disability, a mental health problem or an addiction, cannot cope without their support. There are an estimated 30,000 young adult carers in Scotland and they experience many challenges as they transition into adulthood.

These can include problems accessing welfare and bursary entitlements; difficulties balancing the demands of study and/or employment or training while undertaking their caring responsibilities and simultaneously trying to maintain social connections as a young person.

Carers Trust Scotland is hosting the Summit as part of our ‘Time to be Heard for Young Adult Carers’ initiative. We are delighted that Jamie Hepburn MSP, the Minister for Sport, Health Improvement and Mental Health, will formally open the event.

The Summit is an opportunity for the young adult carers to come together for two days of engagement, learning and fun. Importantly, this event also offers them a rare chance to take a break from caring duties, as well as an opportunity to meet other carers.

The Summit has been organised in partnership with Young Adult Carer Voice, which is a national peer elected forum, representing young people across Scotland to be the national voice of young adult carers.

During the Summit we will launch our Going Higher in Scotland campaign. There are currently no national records on the number of student carers at universities; they are a hidden group. Research published by Carers Trust has shown that for student carers, half the days spent at college or university were affected because of caring; young adult carers are four times more likely to drop out of college or university than their peers; and two in five juggle employment alongside their time spent in education and their caring responsibilities.

This campaign is asking all universities to include student carers when they look at the different groups that may need extra support to reach their potential.

We are asking universities to identify the number of student carers attending their university; to support all student carers throughout their education to ensure they maintain good mental health, complete their course and achieve the best grades possible; and to report on the progress students are making in their university so they can continue to deliver appropriate support and showcase the university’s achievements.

Going Higher in Scotland has the potential to make positive and lasting change for student carers.

Carers provide an invaluable service to those they care for, as well as to their local community and to Scotland. It is student carers’ Time to be Heard in Scotland and we are campaigning for them to be at the forefront of the higher education agenda.