Published: 21/02/2014 09:00 - Updated: 20/02/2014 10:03

Young carers plea for support

Written byChris Saunderson

TEENAGE carer John Thain is campaigning to ease the financial strain on young people like him across Scotland.

Moray young carer John Thain.
Moray young carer John Thain.

John (16) helps care for his mum Susan and younger brother Conor (11) at the family home in Buckie.

It is a task he carries out willingly to support his dad Malcolm.

However, for many young people in a similar situation to John, the balance between providing care and continuing their education can be a difficult one.

John, who is one of two Scottish Youth Parliament representatives for Moray, is lobbying the Scottish Government to support young carers.

The Scottish Youth Parliament’s national campaign, ‘Care.Fair.Share.’, seeks to ensure that young carers are treated fairly.

It is urging the Government to:

•Address anomalies in the administration of the Educational Maintenance Allowance which result in many young carers losing their EMA entitlement.

•Additional funding and bursary opportunities for young carers struggling to afford further education due to their caring responsibilities.

•Alleviate the cost of travel for young carers between school, work, and home to fulfil their caring and education duties.

John doesn’t qualify for EMA and it costs him £5 a day to travel to college in Elgin where he studies social sciences.

The former Buckie High School pupil said: “In some circumstances young carers get their EMA cut because of a lack of attendance at school because of their caring role.

“I help look after my mum who has back problems because of spina bifida and depression, and my brother who has Aspergers (autism spectrum).

“There are days when things are difficult but you would do anything for family,” he added.

John is collecting pledges locally to support the campaign and has already signed up local councillors Gordon Cowie and Gordon McDonald.

He has also contacted Moray MSP Richard Lochhead, who is a member of the Scottish Government, to discuss the campaign with him.

The ‘Care.Fair.Share.’ campaign launch was supported by an animated video telling the story of two fictional young carers, Jack and Lucy.

John became a member of the youth parliament last June and admits the experience has changed his life.

“It is amazing and has given me a lot more confidence,” he said.

Louise Cameron, from Keith, is vice-chair of the youth parliament.

“Every three months we have a national sitting at a venue hosted by a local authority. Next month we are in Stirling and in June we will be in Shetland,” added John.

John has also been a member of the Moray Youth Council for the last six years.

The Scottish Youth Parliament is the democratically elected voice of Scotland’s young people and campaigns on a wide range of issues, and represents young people all over Scotland. It gives young people a national platform to voice their issues, turn them into positive actions, and influence Scotland’s decision makers.

The Scottish Youth Parliament consulted widely about young carers in Scotland during the formation of its youth manifesto, “Change the Picture”, in 2010. The manifesto received nearly 43,000 responses from young people across Scotland, of which 88% indicated that the Government should develop a young carers strategy.

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