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Young carers’ votes are being forgotten

This opinion piece is almost 10 years old

We are in danger of missing out young carers in voter registration drives, says Paul Traynor from Carers Trust Scotland

Paul Traynor, Carers Trust Scotland
Paul Traynor, Carers Trust Scotland

The Scottish independence referendum is a once in a generation opportunity for young adult carers in Scotland to have their say about Scotland’s future. For the first time young adult carers aged 16 and 17 will have an opportunity to truly have their voices heard at the ballot box.

Our Time To Be Heard campaign is all about getting young adult carers voices heard by the people who can make a real difference to their lives and we fully support the opportunity for these young adult carers to be able to vote in the Scottish referendum on 18 September.

There are over 35,000 young adult carers aged between 16 and 25 in Scotland, and there are many challenges they face that may be a barrier to registering and actually being able to vote in the referendum.

There has been a strong drive across education institutions and employers to ensure young people across Scotland are registered, but young adult carers aged 16 to 18 are twice more likely to be out of education, employment and training than young people who do not have caring responsibilities. Consequently young adult carers are more vulnerable to being missed out in receiving vital information and advice about how they register and participate in the referendum.

Young adult carers are more vulnerable to being missed out in receiving vital information and advice about how they register

There is a general assumption that all young people have access to new media technology and are able to find relevant information to support them in being knowledgeable about the process of voting. However many young adult carers live in low-income households where money is tight and they do not have access to items such as smartphones and computers.

60% of young adult carers juggle work, study and their caring responsibilities. They have very limited free time and if they are the main carer in their household it may be extremely difficult for young adult carers to vote in person at the ballot box. Carers Trust Scotland believes more promotion and awareness-raising around proxy and postal voting would ensure a higher voter turnout rate for all carers.

The seventh Scottish Young Carers Festival took place on 29 to 31 July. Over 700 young and young adult carers came together to get a break from their caring role, relax, have fun and meet key policymakers. The Scottish Youth Parliament were among the organisations invited to take part in the festival this year. They encouraged young carers of voting age to register to vote in the referendum. The feedback we received showed that young carers felt being able to vote empowered and inspired them to engage with the political process. They were looking forward to having the opportunity to influence policies that impact on them and the people they care for. Overwhelmingly, young adult carers told us that they felt privileged and grateful to have a say in Scotland’s future.

The Scottish Young Carers Festival was one of several ways Carers Trust Scotland has been working to ensure carers have the knowledge they need to make an informed vote. There have also been engagement opportunities from both sides of the independence debate for carers and we have welcomed this. However, we believe more could be done to ensure carers are registered and informed about the voting process. In particular, we would like to see more engagement with local carers centres.

Whatever the outcome on 18 September, it is vital that the issues faced by the 900,000 unpaid carers of all ages in Scotland remain at the forefront of the political agenda.

Paul Traynor is young adult carers policy and campaigns officer for Carers Trust Scotland.

This is part of a series of TFN articles that focus on the #Missingmillion people who are not intending to vote in the Scottish independence referendum on 18 September.