As a young carer, I have experienced first-hand how difficult it is to care, be in education, and hold down a job. Many of the young carers that I know personally are continuously struggling to make ends meet. Knowing this, and experiencing first-hand how challenging it can be, has made me even more determined and passionate to campaign for young carers to ease a little bit of the pressure that comes with caring responsibilities by alleviating the looming financial burden that young carers so often face.
Throughout 2014, I led the Scottish Youth Parliament’s national campaign, Care.Fair.Share., which has aimed to ensure that young carers are treated fairly by urging the Scottish Government to ease the financial strain facing young carers.
I am delighted that as a result of our campaign, the Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS) has revised its eligibility criteria for grants, which means more of Scotland’s young carers can access the funding necessary to support them in further and higher education. This is fantastic progress towards achieving a fairer society which recognises the importance of supporting all of Scotland’s young people to access equal opportunities and achieve their full potential. Young carers provide an invaluable service to their families and society, and should not have to face financial hardship and compromise. I hope the amendments to SAAS’s eligibility criteria for funding will support many young carers to access the education they truly want and deserve.
Promoting fairness and equality for young carers is an issue that is so close to my heart, and to know we have made a real difference is absolutely amazing. Throughout our campaign, I have learned a lot about myself. I feel more confident as a person, but I have also learned that I can encourage others to make a change that will aid the lives of so many young carers in Scotland. It has shown me that a small idea can be made big! After all, the campaign started as a Members’ Motion. It has shown me the full process of how change can be made through SYP, and it has truly been the highlight of my four years as a Member of the Scottish Youth Parliament.
Although Care.Fair.Share. has helped Scotland make fantastic progress, we cannot become complacent in our quest to ensure young carers are treated fairly by society and government policies. We must continue to call for further recognition and support for young carers, and as a nation, be able to ensure a young person’s caring responsibilities never prevent them from accessing the same opportunities as their peers. We must continue to defend and extend the welfare and well-being of young carers the length and breadth of Scotland. Loud and clear, far and wide, I want us to champion the message that care should never mean compromise.
Lauren King MSYP