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Report Calls for Investment in Digital Tech to Support Informal Carers in Lockdown

A new report launched this week urges local authorities to invest in digital technology to support unpaid carers during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

Caring during lockdown: Challenges and opportunities for digitally supporting carerssets out key recommendations to assist local authorities in caring for their carers; by facilitating ways the caring community can maintain its vital network of peer support during a national emergency.

Academics from the University of Sheffield and University of Liverpool, studied data from 118 carers during the first Covid-19 lockdown earlier this year. The team analysed unique, proprietary data to explore the carers’ experiences through their use of digital technology to stay connected, and access support and services from their local authority.

The participants socialised over Virtual Cuppas hosted by a professional Carers Coach from Mobilise - a tech company started and run by carers - to facilitate discussion and help identify challenges the carers are facing and solutions for them to consider.

During the four months of the first lockdown, the participant carers discussed significant challenges affecting their health and wellbeing in the digital groups, including; a perceived lack of information and social restrictions impacting their sense of certainty, control and levels of motivation, increased anxiety around access to health services and local authority support and those with dual roles, such as carer and mother, also had difficulty finding a work-life balanced during lockdown. Over time, these led to feelings of exhaustion and burnout amongst the carers, with many reporting social isolation and feelings of loneliness.

Dr Matthew Lariviere, a UKRI Innovation Fellow at the University of Sheffield’s Centre for International Research on Care, Labour and Equalities, and principal investigator of the report, said: “Previous research the University of Sheffield conducted with Carers UK suggested that unpaid carers save the UK economy £132 billion annually in the work they do. Therefore it is important that we recognise the value of unpaid carers in our communities.

Following the study, the report recommends four key ways local authorities can ensure their carers are supported as effectively as possible during a national crisis:

  • Invest in additional accessible support for carers during national crises when access to traditional services is restricted
  • Invest in innovations and infrastructure that can keep carers connected and ensure they have the technology join that new support
  • Invest in programmes for digital literacy amongst carers, to ensure they are empowered to access the community during a national crisis
  • To consider how these additional methods of support are sustainable and can be adapted when restrictions begin to ease

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