Young carer dons her whites

Young carer Courtney dons her whites thanks to a unique scholarship opportunity 

A young carer from East Ayrshire has taken her first step into her dream thanks to the work of two national charities which teamed up to help give her a break from her caring role, but also a unique chance to work towards a future in the hospitality sector.  

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Courtney, aged 20 , took up a two day scholarship at the Grand Central Hotel in Glasgow through HIT Scotland’s well-established scholarship programme. HIT Scotland decided to pilot the programme with young carers through Shared Care Scotland’s Respitality project.

Respitality, now in its fifth year of operation, provides unpaid carers with a short break from routine by working closely with the hospitality, leisure and tourism sector who donate free of charge breaks to the project. So far Respitality has enabled 2,156 carers and 1,745 companions to access a short break, with donations estimated to be in the region of £177,314.  

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David Cochrane, Chief Executive of HIT Scotland explains: “Our industry is a very inclusive one and after talking it over with Shared Care Scotland, we knew we wanted to further support those within the industry with their wellbeing and Respitality gave us the opportunity to do this.”  

Courtney, 20, is one an estimated 27,000 young carers in Scotland. She has cared for her mother since she was 8 years old, including helping out with her siblings and being in charge of household duties because of her mother’s health. 

She receives support from East Ayrshire Carers Centre, and when they told her of a scholarship opportunity that would help her work towards her dreams of a career in catering, she jumped at the chance.

Courtney said: “I only ever seem to get bad news and there are constantly issues that I need to deal with. I was shocked but delighted to hear that I was being offered this opportunity.” 

Fiona Robson, joint Chief Executive Officer of East Ayrshire Carers Centre, explained more: “Courtney has had limited experiences due to her caring role, and in addition had a very difficult relationship with school. She hasn’t always found it easy to think about her aspirations or to have the time to think about planning a career that will give her joy as well as an income. We have an established employability service for carers and so it was really easy for us to understand the benefits of an opportunity like this for an unpaid carer.”

Courtney who is currently studying catering at college, wanted to learn more about the different styles of plating up food for service and gain experience in cooking, as well as working in a fast paced environment. Her two day scholarship at the Grand Central Hotel in Glasgow saw her learning from Executive Chef Zoltan Szabo. 

 “I was so nervous on my first day. I felt like I didn’t belong somewhere like that, but the team at the hotel all looked out for me. By my second day, I just felt like one of the team and I could see myself working somewhere like the Grand Central Hotel. The scholarship has given me so much confidence. Zoltan even told me I have real potential and that he would like to employ me once I finish college. This has energised me so much!” 

Kerry Donaghy, Respitality Developer with Shared Care Scotland commented: “HIT Scotland have been a strong champion for Respitality from the beginning. When David came to me to pilot the scholarship to specifically support unpaid carers to access these opportunities, I couldn’t wait to share the idea with the carers organisations as it is such a unique offer that will make a huge difference to carers lives. The Grand Central Hotel have donated overnight stays and dinners to Respitality for some time, and this scholarship opportunity too fully reflects the warmth and kindness of the Scottish hospitality, tourism and leisure sector.”

Both HIT Scotland and Respitality hope to continue to incorporate this unique opportunity to carers across Scotland within the current scholarship programme timeline that HIT Scotland operate. 

Fiona Robson, said: “Donations to Respitality are really important – aside from the obvious benefit of the break donated – unpaid carers feel appreciated beyond their caring situation when businesses owners engage with a project like Respitality because they are showing their understanding and acknowledgement of the person’s caring role.”

Alyson Gray