A card to show someone cares

Robbie McCormack (14) displays the new Young Carers Card
Robbie McCormack (14) displays the new Young Carers Card

It’s a grown-up job for some of our youngest people.

Being a young carer to a parent or relative is a role that is not chosen but is one that is accepted and valued by those who many of us would still class as children.

In their position as carer, their job is something that many more fortunate youngsters could not even comprehend, little alone do.

That’s why a new scheme was launched this week to make sure young carers enjoy more of the rights they deserve to continue with their vital role as well as live one of the most exciting and promising stages of their lives.

It all started a few years ago.

During the Young Carers Festival in 2010, carers were asked about the problems they faced in their role and what could be done about them.

Last week, at Forth Valley Royal Hospital in Larbert, the Young Carers Authorisation Card was launched.

Its purpose is to impress upon everyone in the carer’s and the person they care for’s life that they have knowledge, experience and commitments to be given a greater respect than those of the same age.

In launching the Young Carers Authorisation Card, NHS Forth Valley has become one of six pilot areas in Scotland to trial the project.

And, if successful, the card could be rolled out on a national level.

During the launch last Wednesday, Falkirk MSP and Public Health Minister Michael Matheson spoke of what had been achieved.

“Forth Valley is one of the first areas to pilot the Young Carers Authorisation card, along with Fife and Dumfries and Galloway,” he said.

“It was during a question and answer session at the festival two years ago – with myself and others – when it became clear that young carers have to be able to gain access to the right information, and also have the recognition of health professionals of the role that they do to support the individual they care for.

“That manifested itself into the creation of the Young Carers Authorisation Card with the purpose of addressing the issues young carers come across.

“I am proud they not only rose to this challenge, but that the young carers also came up with the solution.”

The card can be presented on a number of different occasions, but chiefly it will be used to inform health professionals that the youngster by their parent’s side is not only a loved one, but is one with knowledge and experience of the condition.

In turn, the card makes sure that health professionals will be able to share information with the youngster, and even receive useful information about the cared-for person’s condition.

Issued by the Falkirk or Stirling and Clackmannanshire Carer Centre, the card has safeguards built in such as photo ID and is reviewed regularly.

But those who issue the card have stressed that cardholders will not automatically have the right to all the information – that will be down to the discretion of the individual professional.

Using this judgement, it is hoped young carers can be protected from “inappropriate caring” and they will be allowed to be children and young people first and foremost.

Holly Hoskisson, of the Young Carers Project in Falkirk said: “The card gives young carers an opportunity to find out more information about the cared-for person’s illness or condition.

“It’s hoped the card will enable young carers to be better recognised by health professionals.

“In many families, the young carer knows the cared-for person the best, all they want is for health professionals to acknowledge this and talk to them.

“The Young Carers Authorisation Card pilot is a positive move for NHS Forth Valley and the local carers centres involved.”

Fraser Risk (17), from Camelon, has been involved in caring for his mum since she developed epilepsy.

He said: “Hopefully the card will make things easier for young carers. If you miss a day at college, you don’t have to explain in the same way you used to, you can show them the card.

“Being a young carer is a really common thing, I don’t think people realise that.

“At the Young Carers Project, you speak to a lot of young people who are doing the same thing.”

Camelon’s Mary Hiney, also 17, cares for her mum and younger sister,

She said: “I think it’s a good idea.

“In hospitals, you won’t have to explain who you are, but you’ll have the card so people will know.

“I don’t feel I’ve missed out being a carer, my mum always makes sure of that.”