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Young carers seize opportunity to speak to MSPs

The Young Festival 2008, organised by The Children's Society Include Project and YMCA Fairthorne Manor © (Image (c) JJ Images)

On 13 and 14 September 2008 over 500 young carers from all over Scotland will attend the first ever Scottish Young Carers' Festival and get the opportunity to speak directly to key decision makers at national level about how young carers' services should be delivered in the future.

On day two of the Festival, MSPs and invited guests will be put on the spot during Political Speed Dating, where groups of young carers will have four minutes to get answers to their questions before moving on to the next politician.

The aim of the Festival is to give young carers a voice in how the proposed National Young Carers Forum should be established and what its remit should be. This follows from the government's response to the Care 21 report, saying that young carers would be one of four priority areas and that a National Young Carers Forum should be established.

Paige Whitelaw from Brechin is 16 and has been a carer since she was eight years old. She helps to look after her younger sister, who cannot wash, dress, eat or speak. Paige says: 'I come home straight from school to look after my sister so I can't go out when I want. I like the young carers group because it gives me a break, but they're only every two weeks because there isn't enough money for more. I'm looking forward to the festival to get a break, but I also want to say to people that we need more funding for more support.'

A young carer is a child or young person under the age of 18 who carries out a caring role which would normally be undertaken by an adult. Young carers are 45% less likely to leave school with a qualification and one third of them self harm.

The Young Carers Festival will give these young carers a voice in the future provision of young carers' services, but it will also give them a break and lots of fun. As well as flying foxes, samba drumming and surfing, they will set up the Festival Radio station on site and act as roving reporters, interviewing carers and MSPs and producing regular news bulletins. Another group will film the Festival to produce a DVD.

Louise Morgan, Scottish Young Carers Development Manager with The Princess Royal Trust for Carers, says: 'Young carers in Scotland have been asking for their own festival for several years. Some have made the long trek south to the English Young Carers Festival, but say that they feel left out when it comes to consulting on matters of policy. This is a fantastic development and is a win – win situation for young carers and the Scottish Government. Young carers get to have fun and have their say, while the Government fulfil their pledge to develop a national forum guided by the voices of young carers.'

The Scottish Government has provided £200,000 to enable this festival to take place. Shona Robison, Minister for Public Health, and Adam Ingram, Minister for Children and Early Years, will attend the Festival, as will MSPs, Directors of Social Work and key decision makers in the lives of young carers.

The Young Carers Festival will take place on 13 and 14 September in a tented village at the Broomlea Centre in West Linton in the Borders. Young carers and decision makers will be available for interview before and during the Festival.