The Young Carers Festival: a yearly opportunity for respite and friendship
This year from the 30th June to 2nd July Spurgeon’s young carers will be attending the Young Carers Festival in Southampton.
Not only does it give the young people the opportunity to have some much-needed time off from caring for a family member, but it also allows them to connect with each other and feel understood.
A weekend of joy and connection – Supporting
The Young Carers Festival offers a world of fun to the young carers, who can enjoy fairground rides, outdoor movies, live music, sports and craft workshops.
However, most importantly, it offers them the chance to make new friends whose experiences mirror their own, and have their voices heard.
The festival has its own radio station which will feature young carers sharing their stories, and a ‘Voice Zone’, which is a hub for young carers to share their opinions and thoughts.
The importance of feeling seen and heard
Young carers lives are often stressful and difficult. They care for family members who are struggling with health problems, and take on responsibilities beyond their years.
The impact this has on their day to day lives is profound. With little free time available socialising and fun is often off the agenda, and they often struggle in school.
The young carers that Spurgeons support benefit greatly from attending the Young Carers festival.
‘There are so many brilliant festival memories both for staff that go and for the young people we take with us,’ says Wolverhampton Children’s Services Lead Angie Jones. ‘Just watching young people arrive with all their worries and stress and see them start to relax and just for a couple of days be able to have the freedom to be themselves and have fun. We see young people grow in confidence, make friends, have new experiences and make memories that really will last a lifetime.’
What the festival means to young carers
Some of the young carers who attended last year’s event shared their feelings with us about the experience.
‘I enjoyed the festival as I was going through a stressful time and although not fully knowing what was going to happen there I went out of curiosity and boredom,’ says Jordan Smith, a Wolverhampton young carer. ‘I wasn’t disappointed, and it exceeded my expectations for a fun, unusual experience that I’m not used to. Despite not being surrounded by my usual friends I still had a lot of fun and would go there again as it was an interesting way to unwind. I found it helped me to regain my focus and optimism.’
James from Wolverhampton enjoyed ‘going on the fair rides and meeting new people. I have made new friends and I have memories that will last forever.’
Young Carers worker Baldish Kaur says ‘for the young people it is an opportunity to have time to themselves and see life without their caring role . It is a time to be able to put forward their views for important changes for young carers and it is a chance to make friends and do activities they might not get a chance to do before. It is also about allowing them to have the freedom to make choice without the daily tasks they have back home.’
Life as a young carer
Lucy is a carer to her mum, who has antiphospholipid syndrome (a blood clotting disease), arthritis in hands, feet, hips and knees, Raynaud’s and migraines. She also takes care of her younger sibling.
Lucy has been impacted by her caring role and has received help in the form of regular one to one sessions from her allocated support worker. She receives support around the negative impact of her caring role and then later received professional counselling support when her anxiety and stress level increased.
With the continued support of Spurgeons Young Carers and the allocated Support Worker, Lucy has been able to sustainably manage her emotional and mental wellbeing and is progressing well in her education and has attained a place at sixth form. She is currently studying for her exams and is very positive and hopeful about her future.
Of the Young Carers Festival, Lucy says that it gives her the opportunity ‘to have personal freedom and space as you have to decide for yourself what you want to do without considering anyone else.’
Her favourite memory of last year’s festival was ‘me and Pooja sitting on the dock together, blasting music and enjoying each other’s company without anyone around to interfere or bother us. The festival helped with my mental health as you’re not surrounded by the stuff that makes you upset, stressed or anxious.’
Lucy is looking forward to attending again this year.
The importance of young carers taking part in activities outside the home
As shown in a study by the Social Care Institute for Excellence, young carers have reported that the difference made by breaks is ‘everything’. Free time to relax is vital for their wellbeing, and occasional trips and days out are valued highly.
The study found that having breaks offers young carers the following:
- more opportunities to enjoy a life outside or alongside the caring role
- feeling better supported
- improved confidence
- increased ability to cope
- reduced social isolation and loneliness e.g. increasing social circles, connections and activities
- increased ability to maintain the caring relationship, reducing the risk of relationship breakdown and crisis
- improved health, wellbeing and quality of life
- staying safe
- enjoying and achieving
- making a positive contribution
- increase participation at school, college or university.
The Young Carers festival offers a unique opportunity for young carers to make new friends, bond with others, try new experiences, and gain some welcome relief from their usual responsibilities.