Hampshire Young Carers Alliance (HYCA) held their first Young Carers Conference at Eastleigh Football Club on Wednesday , welcoming over 100 professionals spanning many occupations, including health, education, councils, social services, police, and voluntary sectors, to raise awareness of Young Carers’ needs.
The conference kicked off with HYCA Strategic Lead Joanne Miles introducing HYCA and what they do. HYCA is a consortium of ten Young Carers projects across the county who work together to try and provide consistency for Young Carers regardless of where they live. Joanne then introduced the first group of Young Carers who have been working with Lee Culhane from Hampshire County Council over the past few months as part of the Young Carers Action Group (YCAG).
The first group spoke about what it means to be a Young Carer, and then ran some interesting audience participation activities including ‘dance breaks’ which saw all attendees up on their feet cutting some shapes!
This part of the presentation represented how Young Carers are often made to do things they don’t want to do, and it went down really well with the audience. They also did an activity where they invited audience members to fill up a jar using various items that represented different areas of the Young Carers’ lives, such as free time, caring, school work, and social time. They then compared the professionals’ version of their ‘jar of life’ to theirs and spoke through how their time is divided up.
The second group shared some personal stories about their lives as Young Carers. One young person spoke about health professionals not telling her that she was entitled to claim back travel expenses when taking her cared for person to appointments. Another Young Carer spoke about their experience of bullying in school, and another about how 6 sessions with CAMHS is not a ‘fix’. The audience then had a chance to ask questions.
Many attendees pledged an action to improve support for Young Carers in their institution, and professionals also got a chance to meet and chat with staff from their local project. The police, the CCG and Supporting Families were among the institutions present, and they all expressed an interest in supporting HYCA and Young Carers across the county moving forward.
Daniel Phelps from the University of Winchester also presented his research findings from his analysis of HYCA and the families and young people registered on the projects across the county. He was very happy to hear the young peoples’ presentations highlighted the same issues as his research. Heidi Kavanagh from Applemore College, alongside Marie Shotbolt from New Forest Young Carers, also gave a presentation about the Children’s Society Schools Award and how schools can work to better support Young Carers.
The event was thoroughly enjoyed by all who attended. One professional commented:
“I was humbled over the courage it took for the YCs to share their experiences in the hope that it can impact on the lives of other young carers. I will take this message and be motivated to make changes back at the school I work with by respecting individuality and listening to what the group would like and support their aspirations.”
“It gave me a very good insight into the life of a young carer. It is always great to hear from young people at these events. It was very well organised, and was four hours well spent.”