We must give young carers a better deal


Every time we used to go to the shops with my little brother, he would walk around with a pack of butter in his hand.

Sean has autism, and he would be attracted to the shiny wrapping because of his sensory needs.

The shops used to be one of the few places we went as a family: we mostly didn’t go out at all; we wanted to avoid strangers staring and pointing if Sean had a meltdown.

We basically stayed at home for five years.

We knew from quite early on that Sean was autistic, thanks to my Gran, who worked at Autism Scotland, but it took a long battle for him to get an official diagnosis.

At the time, I didn’t used to think of myself as a young carer; helping to look after Sean was just what I did. He’s five years younger than me and I’ve been caring for him pretty much from the get-go.

Sean didn’t used to speak and he’d get frustrated that nobody would understand him. I was always the person who would speak up for him and explain what he wanted. We eventually all learned a bit of Makaton – which uses a mix of signs – so we could communicate better with him.

Things started improving when Sean started school: the specialist support he got there really helped. He’s able to talk now: he’s always happy to tell you exactly how he wants you to play the game we’ve invented based on his favourite TV show, Deal or No Deal! We also get out more as a family; going bowling and to see other relatives.

I love my caring role: it gives me bonding time with Sean. I’ve been really lucky that being a young carer hasn’t affected my education: my school was really supportive and I’m now at university studying adult nursing.

But there are lots of young carers and families who haven’t had the same support we’ve had. People are really struggling: financially and emotionally, especially with the cost of living crisis.

That’s why I’m backing the A Scotland That Cares campaign; which is calling for care and carers to be placed higher up the Scottish Government’s agenda. Right now, the Government has 11 National Outcomes, but none of them are on care.

Creating a new, dedicated National Outcome on care is something that should have been done years ago, but carers – especially young carers – always get pushed to the back of the queue. But we are important, and we do matter.

The Scottish Government has a long way to go to really value carers, and those they support. It’s not just me saying that: new polling shows that nearly three quarters of adults in Scotland think so too.

If I could say one thing to the First Minister it would be: you can’t keep forgetting about us; you have the power to change our lives, so why don’t you?

Support the campaign at: www.ascotlandthatcares.org

Teigan is a Media Ambassador for Carers Trust Scotland. This article originally appeared in The Herald.