Scottish Young Carers Festival 2022 - Louisa's blog

My name is Louisa and I am currently an intern at Carers Trust. At the beginning of August I was fortunate enough to attend the Scottish Young Carers Festival as a volunteer, along with a few other interns and staff members at Carers Trust.

Growing up as a young carer, I was never given the opportunity to experience an event like this, but knowing that young carers today have access to events like this is so promising.

This was an opportunity that I wasn’t expecting to gain from my internship but I am very grateful to have been able to go! It was amazing to see so many young carers enjoy themselves and spend time with other people who understand their situation. Although it was non-stop with activities and the young carers were constantly busy, it was clear to see they were relaxed around each other because there wasn’t that awkward feeling of ‘this person won’t understand what it is like to be a young carer’.

Respite is such an overlooked area of support for young carers. People often underestimate how much time a caring role takes up. Even if a young carer is not physically caring for someone, for example when they are in school, a lot of time is spent worrying about or just thinking about the person they care for. Their peers often don’t understand how taxing this can be, or why young carers feel they have this responsibility. Young carers can also often feel guilty for taking some time for themselves because they feel they should be with the person they care for, but at the festival, young carers were in an environment where everyone was in the same boat, and they were around other people who also knew this was time they could spend being themselves.

Identity also plays a huge role in being a young carer – often being a young carer can shape someone’s identity which I don’t think should be seen in a negative way. The list of positive attributes gained from being a young carer is endless and young carers deserve to be proud of this. As being a young carer can have so much influence on how a young carer sees themselves, when they are not caring for someone, they can feel a bit lost. Being at the festival away from the person they care for had the potential for some young carers to feel like this, but they were all brought together at the festival because of their caring role. It felt like the perfect balance between having respite while retaining their identity as a young carer.

Young carers were given the opportunity to talk to Members of the Scottish Parliament to talk about issues that are important to them. I sat and listened to some of the conversations and as the young carers were talking, I could see that they were empowered by talking to people who can actually make a difference. One young carer spoke about their autistic sibling that they care for and the issues that their family face, and for me, it was like listening to someone describe my own life as I also care for my autistic sister. Hearing the member of parliament validate their experiences, offer solutions and describe how the young carers’ experiences are shaping their plans for the future left me feeling optimistic and really happy that today’s young carers are being given opportunities to speak to the people who can make the changes that are needed to better support young carers.

It was so insightful to experience the festival from a volunteer’s perspective too – not only was I able to appreciate the huge amount of planning that went into ensuring the event ran smoothly, it was also amazing to see a group of people who were so focused on making sure the young carers had the best experience possible. Knowing that there are people who are so passionate about support for young carers being the best it can be means that support and opportunities for young carers in the future will only be bigger and better, and this will result in young carers experiencing life in the more positive light that they deserve to.