Digital Inclusion Skills for Carers bringing Opportunities, Value and Excellence (DISCOVER) is a European Union funded project which is led by Digital Birmingham (UK), and involves researchers, practitioners and developers from Coventry University HDTI (UK), Birmingham City University (UK), Aristotelio Panepistimio (Greece), the Open University (UK), Fundacion Privada Cetemmsa (Spain), Astra Com (Netherlands) and Dundalk Institute of Technology (Ireland).
DISCOVER aims to tackle three main issues:
- Increasing digital competences and engagement of informal carers;
- Increasing use of ICT solutions for delivering social support and care;
- Raising the profile of social inclusion work.
DISCOVER is a three year project which started in April 2012 to create a new service to deliver digital skills training for carers. There is evidence from numerous surveys in the UK that carers are susceptible to longstanding physical health problems and can be strongly affected by stress, anxiety and depression. Research carried out by Cheffings, (2003) revealed that 50% of carers believed that their health was adversely affected by their caring role. Additionally, in an ageing population, family members are expected to take on more and more complex care tasks.
In particular, home carers can encounter feelings of isolation because they are not part of a professional community like staff in a care home. They need ways to find answers to care questions or psychological support to help them fulfil their role. Online information, advice and guidance and access to a community of peers and experts can help. DISCOVER will focus in particular on opportunities for informal carers as a socially excluded group. HDTI will be developing the ethics for the project, translating the innovations onto sustainable business models and undertaking a full evaluation of the learning technology and service.
Innovative forms of learning material, offered through mobile phone apps for quick learning, scenario learning through videos or serious games environments can engage busy professionals as well as informal carers. Other forms of distance learning like webinars and live chats enable learners that cannot attend a classroom session (e.g. rural carers that might find that reaching their next college requires a day trip) to be in touch with qualified mentors or teachers. To benefit from these offers, carers must have digital skills. DISCOVER will develop a skills centre around digital literacy including searching for information, ability to analyse and validate the results, multi-tasking and netiquette for distance learning (e.g. follow on screen presentations, pose questions by chat and listen/talk to a mentor).
DISCOVER aims to improve the digital skills of home and domiciliary care workers supporting communication ability, self-learning and support through accessing web based learning. Home carers are in a primary position to address digital exclusion of the people they care for. Any group of people unable to regularly interact with society, be it through illness, old age or other reasons, is at risk of isolation.
The ability to access the Internet via smart phone, the computer or TV can help people to build up a social life again. Digital inclusion research in the UK shows that one of the main barriers for people is a lack of confidence and skills. Therefore the project aims to give carers the ability to pass on their digital skills to the people they care for and help them engage with suitable online activity (e.g. expert patient groups or social groups). The project will focus on informal learning and on changing formal/qualification courses / learning materials to include digital skills appropriately. The main outcome will be a better quality of life for carers and the cared for.