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2013

Carers’ social network project launched to reduce isolation

26 June 2013

From left to right: Caragh Young, young adult carer; Lucinda Godfrey, Dundee Carers Centre Manager; James Simpkins, Abertay University research assistant; Dawn Carmichael, project leader from Abertay University.

A new project to build a safe social network for young adult carers has been launched today (Wednesday 26 June) by Dundee Carers Centre and the University of Abertay Dundee.

The project is thought to be the first of its kind – developing a private, safe version of sites like Facebook, specifically for young adult carers aged 15 to 30.

Dundee Carers Centre identified a gap between the support available for young carers and adult carers, and developed a project specifically for this group called UPBEET. UPBEET provides emotional support, group support and breaks from caring.

Following research it was identified that despite being active on social networks young adult carers felt isolated and lacked peer support.

The organisation approached computing experts at Abertay University, who suggested that they could build a private social network where young adult carers could safely interact with each other online – and access crucial support services.

UPBEET project launch 2

Lucinda Godfrey, Manager, Dundee Carers Centre, said: “Young adult carers were very clear that social media had to play a part in how information and support was provided to them.

“They were also clear that it would not replace the need for face-to-face support but would enhance their overall experience of the service, enabling them to continue caring whilst achieving their own aspirations.”

Dawn Carmichael, project leader from Abertay University, said: “Social networks are an incredible innovation for sharing information with friends and family, but for isolated and vulnerable young people the publicly available sites are far too open.

“Young adult carers need a safe, supportive space where they can connect with their peers, share their support for each other, and speak to Dundee Carers Centre about the difficult issues they’re facing.

“Building a private, safe version of a site like Facebook – where the carers are in control of their private data and their security settings – could be a major step forward in using technology to support young adult carers.”

Big Lottery Fund Scotland Director, Jackie Killeen, said: “The Big Lottery Fund is delighted to be able to support this unique project which will help young carers feel more connected to the wider world using a method of communication that is almost second nature to them.  

“Now, safe in the knowledge that they are in a secure environment, they can keep in touch with other young people in the same position and also be supported to access other services which can help them in their role. Another exciting aspect of this project is that it has the potential to help young carers across the whole of Scotland.”

The new social network will be completely secure and private, with Dundee Carers Centre having full control of all personal data, unlike the publicly available social network sites.

One major complaint against the currently available social networks is that their privacy settings are confusing and change frequently, removing control from vulnerable people – and risking their private information being shared more widely than they intend.

The new social network, which is funded and supported by the Big Lottery Fund, will be developed into a working prototype by September 2013.

Ultimately, the aim is to develop and test a private social network tool that can be rolled out across Scotland by other centres and support services for young adult carers.

(Ends)

For media enquiries, please contact Chris Wilson (Communications Manager) – T: 01382 308522 M: 07837 250284 E: chris.wilson@abertay.ac.uk

Caragh Young, young adult carer; Lucinda Godfrey, Dundee Carers Centre Manager; James Simpkins, Abertay University research assistant; Dawn Carmichael, project leader from Abertay University.

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