Team GB may have excelled itself at this year’s Olympic Games, but missing out on the opportunity to take part in sporting activities is the stark reality for Scotland’s young carers, according to new research.
Carried out by Ipsos MORI Scotland on behalf of The Princess Royal Trust for Carers in Scotland, the survey compared the lives of young carers with that of young people who took part in the Schools Adolescent Lifestyle and Substance Use Survey (SALSUS). Young carers aged 10 to 19 from across the country were asked about who they cared for and how much time this took up. It also questioned how much time they spent with friends and how many hours each week they spent on different leisure activities.
By comparing their answers with SALSUS, the results demonstrated substantial differences between the lives of carers and other children and young people.
Only 11 per cent of young carers see friends every day, compared with 37 per cent of young people. As for going to friends’ houses, 49 per cent of young carers questioned did this less than weekly or never, whereas only 23 per cent of those who completed the SALSUS survey did the same.
More than half (52 per cent) of adolescents watch films/DVDs every day or most days, while only 39 per cent of young carers do so. And when it comes to taking part in sports, only 22 per cent of young carers participate every day or most days compared to more than double this (45 per cent) from the SALSUS survey.
The majority of respondents cared for their mum (56 per cent). 60 per cent of young carers who responded care for more than 20 hours a week, with 20 per cent caring more than 50 hours a week. It is no surprise that many have little time to do other things more suited to their age.
The results of the survey are being launched at the same time as the start of the annual Scottish Young Carers Festival, which will run on 17, 18 and 19 August this year at Broomlee Outdoor Education Centre in West Linton.
Organised by The Princess Royal Trust for Carers in Scotland on behalf of the Scottish Young Carers Services Alliance and funded by the Scottish Government, the Festival gives young carers the chance to take a break from caring, have fun, meet up with other people in the same position and talk to people who make decisions about services and policies that impact on their lives.
This year’s event is the biggest yet and will bring together 600 young carers from all over Scotland. Following feedback from young carers, the Scottish Government has provided extra funding for the Festival so that it lasts two nights instead of one.
On Saturday 18 August, an activity programme will run all day, giving young carers the chance to take part in dance workshops, football, music sessions, cupcake decorating and stage make-up lessons amongst other.
Throughout the two days, young carers will get the chance to put forward their views on the services and policies that affect them through the consultation zone.
Saturday’s evening programme includes a talent show and a performance by Scotland’s newest boyband, Supanova.
On Sunday 19 August, the Minister for Public Health Michael Matheson will be amongst the invited guests who’ll take part in a question and answer session with the young carers. The festival will finish with a closing ceremony at 1.30pm on the Sunday.
James is a young carer from Glasgow and he cares for his mum, Phyllis, who has fibromyalgia. He said: “I spend roughly 54 hours a week caring for mum and I really notice how much less spare time I get than my friends during the school term. Whilst they're playing football or going to the cinema, I'm usually indoors looking after my mum. I’m really looking forward to the festival because it will be a brand new experience for me and I’m looking forward to meeting up with people as I don’t need to explain my situation to them.”
Louise Morgan, Young Carers Services Development Manager for The Princess Royal Trust for Carers in Scotland, said: “Our survey clearly shows that young carers miss out on many of the activities other children and young people take for granted – such as spending time with their friends, watching films or taking part in sports.
“Young carers take on a hugely important role in our society, providing care for their families and saving the country millions of pounds. The least we can do is recognise this by doing our best to support them and prevent them taking on too much responsibility at a very early stage in their lives.
“It is vital that young carers get appropriate support through dedicated services for young carers and our Festival. Young carer groups allow young carers to meet up with friends and enjoy the activities they sometimes miss out on because of caring, while our Festival offers them a break from caring and the opportunity to try out lots of different activities and sports.”
Michael Matheson, Minister for Public Health, who will be coming to the Festival on Sunday 19 August to talk to the young carers, said: “This survey is a stark reminder of the issues that young carers face, so the Young Carers Festival provides a great opportunity for young carers each year to socialise, enjoy leisure opportunities and take a break from caring. That is why the Scottish Government is happy to fund the Festival for a fifth time and for the next two years.
“We are also funding six pilots across Scotland for a Young Carers Authorisation Card so that young carers are recognised, supported and included by health professionals, and in some areas the card allows young carers to have access to leisure facilities.
“Our funding to Health Boards includes funding to dedicated young carers projects, young carers training, young carers awareness and short breaks, while some of our £13 million Short Breaks funding to the voluntary sector is funding projects provide young carers with leisure and sport opportunities.”