The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins, is one of the most successful book series of all time and is the 21st highest-grossing film franchise. It follows the story of Katniss Everdeen, who nominates herself as Tribute when her sister, Prim, was selected to compete in the Hunger Games. The event is nationally televised and all of the Tributes must fight to the death until only one remains. Katniss also takes on the role of Young Carer to her mother and sister after her father tragically died in a mining accident. It leaves her mother with severe emotional problems and Katniss takes on the role of carer and feels protective of Prim, hence why she volunteers as tribute.
There are an estimated 700,000 young carers in the UK, with approximately 30,000 carers in Wales under 25, whose situations are very similar to Katniss Everdeen’s, and Wales has the largest proportions of carers under 18 in the UK. The Law in Wales protects and helps Young Carers in many different ways so we are going to look at how the law applies to Katniss and how it could possibly apply to you too.
Your Rights in Wales
The Law in Wales is in place so that Young Carers can still enjoy their childhood and to have the same rights and opportunities as every other child. Wales has signed up to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) to make sure that every child has rights. Many young people that provide care do not realise that they may be young carers, and you may be one of those people too.
Under the UNCRC, you have the right to:
- To be protected from discrimination (article 2)
- To form and express your own views (article 12)
- To life, survival and healthy development (article 6)
- To spend time with friends (article 15)
- To enjoy opportunities for leisure and to relax and play (article 31)
- To education (article 28 and 29)
These rights have been incorporated into Welsh Law under the Social Services and Wellbeing (Wales) Act 2014 to ensure that children and young people have as much protection as they possibly can. The Act defines a young carer as “a person who provides or intends to provide care for an adult or disabled child”.
How can I get help?
In the book, Katniss and her family receive no help, but it does not have to be the same for you. You are entitled to an assessment by your local authority, where your situation will be looked at and told what support you can receive. They will understand how your situation affects you and what you would like to happen, as well as what those with parental responsibility would like for you too. They will look at your entire situation, as well as your age.
After you have had your assessment, the local authority will be in a position to advise you as to what you will need as a Young Carer. They will make sure that if you need help with your rights, such as a right to education or spending time with friends or more leisure time, and find friends, relatives or community sport groups to help you out.
After your assessment and the local authority finds that you do in fact need some help, a support plan will be created for you. Like when Katniss asks Gale to look after Prim and her Mum for her when she takes part in the Hunger Games, you should not shy away or be reluctant for help. A support plan will describe and explain what you will need long term – such as your desires and personal outcomes – and the local authority will outline what support it will give you in order to achieve that. It will let you know about all the support that will be offered to you, as well as potentially making direct payments to you. The support plan, which you will have a copy of too, is not necessarily permanent and if you feel as though it is not working for you, you can always ask the local authority to review it for you.
Protecting your Right in Wales
You can now see how there are many ways that you can receive help in Wales if you are a Young Carer that should be easily accessible to you. The system is designed specifically to help you in any situation, large or small, that you may be in. Unlike Katniss, there are many ways that you can be supported so that you do not, and should not, have to struggle by yourself.
My name is Kayleigh Moore and I have just graduated from Swansea University with a degree in Law and American Studies. I will be returning to Swansea in September to begin my Masters in Legal Practice and Advanced Legal Drafting so that I can hopefully become a solicitor one day! Whilst at Swansea I have volunteered in many projects to help people with legal advice, but my favourite project was to look at miscarriage of justice cases to see if people who had been wrongly convicted could appeal their case. When I was at school I used to love any excuse to volunteer with children and being at university has taught me how important that everybody understands their rights, no matter how old they are, so I was so excited to be involved in the ‘Reading my Rights’ Project. When I am not busy with schoolwork, I love to stay active and try new craft projects. During lockdown I have started taking online yoga classes, as well as teaching myself to sew, so I hope to carry on these new hobbies when life gets back to normal!