Birmingham City Council led project launches resources for better-informed carers

15 May 2015, 12:45 pm

A website has gone live to help carers improve digital literacy and become better informed about services following a pilot in four countries, led by Birmingham City Council.

DISCOVER goes liveThe DISCOVER project was formed from an EU-funded partnership of nine councils, universities and health organisations in Greece, the Netherlands, Spain and the UK.

Led by Digital Birmingham, part of Birmingham City Council, the resource – replicated as tailored versions in Dutch, Greek and Spanish – aims to provide support and reduce isolation to carers particularly in the early stages of taking on the role.

Initial research by the DISCOVER team revealed that 10% of Birmingham residents (1.1 million people) had some form of caring role. Of these, 25% do more than 50 hours of care work per week and carers often suffer their own physical and mental health problems as a result.

Combined with a reduction in care services, the team discovered a need for better access to digital information and resources for carers.

The DISCOVER website offers information and advice on various health conditions, caring in general, housing, finance and support. An online forum connects carers locally and the Skills Zone provides free e-learning courses in 10 topic areas including dementia, heart disease preventing falls in the home. Some learning resources are targeted to paid carers.

“If you can’t use the internet it’s really hard”, said Heike Schuster-James, Digital Birmingham Programme Manager. “Carers that don’t work, or work part time, are often socially excluded and lack digital literacy skills. They may have broadband but can’t do anything useful with it”.

She said that carers could improve digital literacy by taking one of the online courses or simply by accessing the information on offer. And by being better informed about services, carers could make more suitable choices, save time and reduce intervention said Schuster-James.

“We expect a dual benefit for local authorities and health services. If you are better informed as a carer you ask for the right service and can hold service providers to account”, she said.

DISCOVER received €3.5 million from the European Commission’s ICT policy Support Programme, part of the Competitiveness and Innovation Programme.

Digital Birmingham partnered with: Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece; Astra-Com VOF, The Netherlands; Birmingham City University; Cetemmsa, Spain; Coventry University Enterprises Limited; Dundalk Institute of Learning, Ireland; Fundación INTRAS, Spain and The Open University, UK.

Development of the resources continues, with a full launch in September.