Young carers enjoyed trampolining and time to discuss caring and their needs with health, education and social care professionals at our Young Carers Conference.
Ninety young carers joined 60 professionals at The Forum, Stevenage, for the conference - an annual event planned and hosted by our Young Carers Council (YCC).
The event on Thursday 16th February was a huge success and the young carers, aged from five to 18, decorated masks, explored the theme Happy Herts and keeping well and healthy. They also spoke about their priorities, which included wanting more support in schools and for health professionals such as GPs to ask young people if anyone at home relies on them, to identify children in a caring role.
This year the first Cleveland Awards were presented to people and groups the young carers felt deserved to be recognised for the support they provide. The awards were named after the Young Carers Service mascot Cleveland the Cat and were mosaics made by some young carers.
Awards were presented to:
• Tracy Lee, a senior youth worker at Youth Connexions Hertfordshire, who received the Best Group Worker Award. Tracy works closely with Stanborough School in Welwyn Garden City to give young carers the chance to take part in activities and learn new skills.
• Vanda Adams, a Teaching Assistant at Commonswood School, Welwyn Garden City, received an award for One to One Support.
• Jackie Graham, a Young Carers Support Worker at Carers in Hertfordshire, received the Giving Young Carers a Voice Award.
• Ware Joggers were received the award for Most Charitable Contribution. Ware Joggers donated just over £3,000 to support young carers following a Charity of the Year partnership.
• Steve Penstone-Smith, from Hatfield, received an award as a thank you for his fundraising efforts and for donating the printed t-shirts the young carers wore; and
• Kasey Penstone-Smith, Steve’s son was presented with a surprise award for his support to the Young Carers Council. Kasey, who cares for his Mum and Grandfather, has been part of the Council since 2009 and was Vice-Chair for two years. He is stepping down as he has just turned 18.
Carole Whittle, our Health and Wellbeing Manager, who is responsible for the young carers service, said: “It was great to welcome a record number of young carers to engage with professionals and discuss caring. Events like this give young carers the chance to gain confidence, meet and make friends with other children in a caring role and speak to people who plan or provide services about their experiences and needs.”
Carole, thanked BBC Children in Need, which provided funding for the conference and Pudsey Bear dropped into the event.
Annie Rose Cutler, who is 16 and helps care for her disabled brother and other family members with different health conditions, said: “The conference went amazingly and was a fantastic opportunity to meet young carers and enlighten the minds of many professionals who attended. I enjoyed speaking out about young carers needs and hearing the experiences of other people like me. The Young Carers Conference is extremely important to young carers like me as it raises awareness and allows people to feel less alone and part of something better.”
Another young carer said: “It was good to talk to the professionals and the best bit was making new friends.”
Visitors from a Canadian young carers support agency also found the conference helpful. They were from The Young Carers Initiative and in the UK to learn more about how various organisations here help and work with young carers and their families.
It is estimated that there are at around 4,000 young carers in Hertfordshire – 10% of children attending the county’s state-funded secondary schools.
If you are or know someone under 19 that helps care for a parent, sibling or family member due to age, illness or disability and want to learn more about other events and support we provide young carers and their families please get in touch. You can call 01992 58 69 69, email or visit our young carers site http://ycih.org