Young Carers take over Manchester!

Gloucestershire Young Carers, along with researchers, organisations, and policy makers from all over the world, came together for this year’s International Young Carers Conference held at Manchester Metropolitan University.

The conference is designed to bring together academics, professionals, young carers, and young adult carers to listen, learn and talk to each other in support of young carers globally.

The welcome introduction included speeches from Professor Saul Becker, a world leader in research, policy and practice for young carers for over 30 years, and presentations from young carers from all over the world. They formed a powerful opening to the conference which discussed both the positive and negatives of the situation facing young carers and underpinned the theme for the conference: Awareness, support and choice.

Over 45 workshops were conducted across the 2 days where researchers and practitioners provided insight into different aspects and developments in research and support for young and young adult carers.

Findings from research, developed by Gloucestershire and Sheffield young carers, in partnership with the University of Gloucestershire and peer researchers was presented. This addressed the complexities of sharing young carer stories and the challenges it can pose, mitigating risks and working ethically.

Gloucestershire Young Carers, as one of the longest running young carers organisations in the UK, helped present a workshop in collaboration with Sheffield Young Carers around the empowerment and exposure of young carers through participation. As part of the workshop, young carers Evie and Luna, along with former young adult carer Aiden, discussed their own experiences, and gave guidance of best practice from their viewpoint and how working with young carers can have an impact on the provision provided by schools, social workers and others. As an example, the young carers discussed the ‘Mosquito Mission’, an outreach programme developed by Gloucestershire Young Carers which is designed to give young carers and young adult carers the ability to influence the future of support services.

“We speak and give lectures to police students, social work students and substance misuse professionals and help them in understanding how to identify, support and work with young carers in their practice.”
“It is different for young carers, and we want them to understand what it is like for us and how what they do can have a massive impact on our mental health and our families.”

Each young carer gave their own key message about participation and what they wanted professionals in the room to remember.

Luna said: “Don’t always choose the loud confident people to help you. You’ll never know when people like me will open up and find their voice.”
Evie’s key message was: “Don’t stereotype young carers. Every family is different whether it be physical health, mental health or other problems. We are all different and we all try our best even if it may not look like it at first.”

The young carers involved said it was amazing to present to people from Norway, America, Scotland, Sweden and the UK Government and is an experience they will never forget.

“it’s just awesome” said Luna. “To have the opportunity to give my thoughts and tell my story is incredible.”

Keynote speeches from professionals all over the world, helped further emphasise the need for continued work for support for young carers.

“They were really powerful. Every day I see and speak to Gloucestershire Young Carers’ staff who are adults and some were young carers but to hear the stories of other adults and how far they’ve come despite their challenges was so meaningful” said Luna.
“The speech that stood out to me most was Elizabeth.” Luna and Evie agreed following the keynote speech by Elisabeth Lied, manager of a young carers-run hotel in Norway. “For her to share her story in front of a room full of people the way she did will stick with me. She is incredibly brave and I think she inspired a lot of people at the conference.”

In addition to presenting a workshop at the event, young carers from Gloucestershire were involved in co-creating a speech that was presented at the finale of the conference by over 15 young carers from different countries.

In what was the most powerful moment of the conference, the young carers proudly put forward their message and manifesto for the future, resulting in a standing ovation from everyone present and tears from many in the audience.

“I felt it was really powerful, all of our voices joined from all over the world to come together for the same purpose. It seemed like they really took on board the messages we gave.”
Scott Bailey-Locke, Youth Participation Lead at Gloucestershire Young Carers said: “It was an incredible experience for all involved and I am incredibly proud of the amazing work accomplished by all the young carers involved in the conference. For many, this conference is the furthest they will have left their families and that alone is commendable but to also present in front of hundreds of professionals from as far as Australia is remarkable.”
“I hope with the information discussed and learning achieved across the conference we can continue to work towards improving the awareness and support provided for young carers not only here in the UK but around the world.”

To quote the young carers:

Let us have a choice.
Let us use our voice.
Let us shape our future.

May 8, 2024

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