INTERVIEW: The Future of Scotland’s Young Carers with Minister for Public Health, Sport and Wellbeing Joe FitzPatrick

Young carers have played an integral role during the ongoing pandemic. As the world beings to return to normal, we need to ensure young carers are supported.

Speaking to Enable Magazine, Scotland’s Minister for Public Health, Sport and Wellbeing Joe FitzPatrick shares what young Scots can expect from the government if they are in a caring role.

COMING OUT OF LOCKDOWN

With schools preparing to be fully operational from 18 August in Scotland, there is no denying the world is no longer on pause. As we manoeuvre out of lockdown the Scottish Government has been listening to young carers and their concerns around additional pressures faced in lockdown.

“We will continue to listen by engaging regularly with carer organisations as we move through and out of lockdown as it’s vital we take forward the lessons we have learnt,” says the Minister.

“Flexibility will also be key for face-to-face events which have been cancelled due to the outbreak including the annual Young Carers Festival, and we are working with partners to find new and exciting ways for young carers to take a break safely. 

“Things may look a bit different this year, but the opportunity will continue to be available for carers to have fun and take a break.”

Similarly, early in lockdown, the Scottish Government set up a £500,000 fund to help services transition to providing support online and over the phone. This has been set up to enable services to be more flexible and available going forward.

Support is integral for young carers, too and the Young Carers Grant is a helping hand for those aged 16 to 18. 

THE GRANT

“Currently we are taking views from young carers on the Young Carer Grant, the first of its kind in the UK,” adds the Minister.

The Young Carer Grant is annual payment of £305.10. It is hoped the grant supports young carers to find employment and create opportunities for respite.

The Minister continues: “We have made a range of further financial support available at this difficult time. 

“We have committed an extra £45 million to the Scottish Welfare Fund, which helps people and families who are on low incomes through grants. People do not need to be in receipt of benefits to apply and they can do so through their local authority.”

Similarly, some young carers aged 16 or over may qualify for Carer’s Allowance, and Scotland also has the Carer’s Allowance Supplement, which is an additional payment to carers currently receiving Carer’s Allowance. 

GUIDANCE

Alongside financial needs, young carers have experienced a strain on their mental health. This could increase with young Scots returning to the classroom.

From the pressures and responsibilities of care, studying and socialising – not to mention fear and anxiety from the pandemic – it can be a lot to comprehend.

“We have been encouraging young carers to ensure they speak to their schools and carer centres about any concerns to ensure they are connected with the most appropriate support,” advises the Minister.

Young Scot is continuously adding to a dedicated section of their website called Aye Feel, which includes some really useful information and tips on mental health on for young people. 

“Additionally, if you start to feel overwhelmed, it’s important to speak to someone you trust, whether that’s a friend, a family member, your GP or a helpline such as NHS24 (shortcode 111) or Breathing Space (0800 83 85 87).”

Whilst in lockdown there is a chance you have started a caring role, or even realised that you are a carer. This can be hard to adjust to or even understand, but there is support available for carers of all ages.

The Minister fervently adds: “I would encourage all young carers, whether you are new to it or not, to get in touch with your local young carer service. 

“They will be able to talk you through all the support that is available and when things get a bit more back to normal, you might have a chance to meet up with some other young carers, too.” 

Meeting up with other young carers will ensure that you know that you’re not alone. However, the pandemic could also mark a change in recognition for young carers.

FUTURE

All carers have been celebrated for their commitment and dedication during this testing time. And it is hoped that more awareness and support will be made available going forward for young carers – and others providing a vital service.

The Minister emphasises: “I think that COVID-19 has made lots of people much more aware of the challenges faced by those with disabilities and carers. 

“I hope that with this awareness comes understanding, kindness and an increased sense of community.

“We have seen some incredible stories of people stepping up to help others during this time – delivering shopping or prescriptions to those who are shielding and volunteering in other ways.

“Not to mention the outstanding contribution made by our key workers. I have no doubt that the people of Scotland will continue to move forward positively together.”

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