Digital Skills for Young Adult Carers

03 Dec 2017

Written by Harriet Brown

Caring for a friend or family member with a disability, illness, mental health problem or an addiction is challenging, and can be even more difficult for Young Adult Carers (aged 16-25), who are also trying to juggle work, studying and relationships. It's estimated that there are around 314,000 known Young Adult Carers in the UK providing £5.5 billion of unpaid care.

Many Young Adult Carers are also disadvantaged when it comes to education and skills. They are 3 times more likely to be outside of education, employment or training. The Nominet Trust also identified Young Adult Carers as some of the 300,000 young people in the UK with low or no basic digital skills.

Never ones to sit by, Good Things Foundation have been working with the Carers Trust over the last few months to do something about this. We're trying to tackle the digital skills gap for Young Adult Carers, by developing a digital resource linked to Learn My Way. It's a pilot project of Digital Reach, a programme supported by the Nominet Trust, which aims to improve the lives of the most hard-to-reach young people by removing the barriers to digital engagement.

The goal for our pilot project was to improve the basic digital skills of Young Adult Carers so that they can safely and efficiently access the advice, information and support they need to achieve their aspirations.

To help us understand what we could develop to best support this goal we held a co-creation day in June, inviting eight Carers Trust Network Partners and two Young Adult Carers to join us. Carers Trust Network Partners support Carers and Young Adult Carers locally, so we knew they would be best placed to understand what's really needed. Together we identified what the most important outcome of Digital Reach would be.

A couple of clear themes emerged:

  1. There's a lot of information out there. Finding reliable information is the challenge. Support workers have reliable online resources they want to recommend, but it's not always easy for Young Adult Carers to find or access them.
  2. Staff want to increase their own digital skills so they're prepared to deliver digital skills training to Young Adult Carers. A lack of confidence in their own digital skills means that support workers aren't sure where to start when it comes to supporting Young Adult Carers.

We also talked about how the digital literacy of Young Adult Carers needs to be taken on a case-by-case basis, as everyone's individual experience of education, working and caring differs. Some Young Adult Carers have very basic digital skills due to missed school and lack of access to devices, while others are regular internet users, but have gaps in their knowledge. One such gap is a lack of awareness about how to stay safe online. The Young Adult Carers who came to the co-creation day told us about friends who had experienced issues online with online relationships and scams.

What did we develop?

  • From our co-creation day we've developed the Young Adult Carers (YACs) Resource Bank - an online bank of specialised resources recommended by staff and young people which is only visible to the support workers and young adult carers involved in the project. Having everything in the same place give YACs the ability to access important information quickly.
  • We've also created a Digital Skills Assessment for Young Adult Carers to complete. This measures their current digital literacy, and shows the gaps for each individual. Not only does this record valuable data, it helps support staff recommend Learn My Way courses to Young Adult Carers.

It's still early days, and each Carers Trust Network Partner has been working hard to set up their projects. However many Young Adult Carers are already using Learn My Way, based upon the recommendations of their support worker, and we're really excited to see how many more will reap the benefits of Learn My Way in the near future.