For two hours young carers talked. Professionals talked. And both sides listened.
A special event hosted by young carers’ champion Rachel Lambert proved a real talking point on Young Carers Awareness Day.
On a day when Blackpool Tower was due to light up in their honour young carers shone at Blackpool Carers Centre.
They met and made new friends of the great and good of Blackpool from health, education, welfare, sport, law and other fields.
One of Britain’s highest profile police officers Clare-Louise Van Deurs Goss – a key figure in the first controversial Channel 4 documentary series 999 What’s Your Emergency – fell under their spell.
“I’m just blown away by it all,” she said. “They are absolutely inspirational, fantastic young people.”
Army officers from the Preston-based Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment were equally impressed by the resilience of young carers.
And Paul Neston of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award said: “We have made a connection here today which will endure. We can really build something special on it.”
Clive Hirst, a patron of Blackpool Carers Centre, said: “When young carers talk the rest of us should listen – because they don’t get this kind of opportunity that often. It’s been a day of laughter and tears.”
Fellow patron John Barnett added: “This isn’t just thinking outside the box – this is thinking with no box at all. Our young carers are outstanding.”
Both Mr Hirst and John Barnett have been involved in the carers’ centre from the very start in 2003.
Rachel, the first young carers’ champion to come from the ranks of the ‘cared-for’, and Tara Bragg, former young carers champion who now works for the charity which helped her, won high praise for organising the event.
But the undoubted stars of the show were the young carers themselves, aged between five and 18, Joseph Fryer, Jasmine Moores, Caitlin Churchill, Jessica and Courtney Hesketh, Jed Smart, Wendy Lawrie, Shauna and Tommy Smith, Daniel Parkinson, Kacie Shepherd, Lauren, Euan and Josh Green, Christopher Smith, Katie and Lily Poyner, Mason Houghton, Claire Taylor, Tyanna Cartwright and more.
Joseph, 13 and Jasmine, eight, were featured in The Gazette’s feature on Young Carers Awareness Day that very day.
“It’s been awesome,” said Joseph. “But it’s quite nice to get to the food.”
The buffet was provided by the self styled ‘The Functioneers’ – a team of volunteers, including parents, carers and cared-for, who help out with the charity’s major events.