Embedding Digital Inclusion: Carers Leeds

Walking with Carers Leeds

Get online week is over for this year, but we’re going to carry on our theme of embedding digital inclusion by sharing a selection of case studies throughout the week which showcase some of the excellent ways our partners have integrated digital aspects into non-digital activities.

First up, we’re hearing from Holly, Digital Inclusion Coordinator at Carers Leeds, about a woodland walk they organised using apps for plant identification.

Who are Carers Leeds?

Here at Carers Leeds, we support unpaid carers – people who support a friend or family member due to their disability, illness, mental health issue, or substance misuse problem. We offer lots of general and specialised advice and support and host a variety of support groups and activities (including dementia support groups, activities for over 50s, walking groups, and more!). For anyone interested, head over to our website www.carersleeds.org.uk or follow us on Twitter @CarersLeeds, where you can keep up to date with our information and events.

How are they integrating digital inclusion?

Our digital inclusion work is something we have been dedicated to over the past months in light of the changes we have all experienced due to the pandemic. We want to empower carers across the wider community of Leeds to feel included and confident with technology despite any barriers they may face. We have been offering a range of digital support to tackle digital exclusion and data poverty. Some of this support has included gifting devices and data, offering one-to-one coaching sessions, sharing written ‘how to’ guides and video tutorials, and delivering remote desktop support!

However, we know technology can be a daunting experience for a lot of people, so we thought an activity which integrated digital into a non-digitally focused activity would be perfect for those who wanted an introduction to technology without the added pressure of classic features which can be overwhelming (like emails, online banking, and social media).

What was the event?

In light of this, we decided to host a woodland wellbeing walk at one of the parks in Leeds which incorporated the use of plant identifier apps on Samsung tablets to identify different trees within nature based on features such as flowers, branches, leaves, and fruit! These apps were easy and interesting to use as they gave us lots of fun facts about the plants we identified, such as the symbolism and mythology linked to them.

We also gave people the option to use physical printouts to give carers the ability to choose, and to move the sole focus away from technology alone. This walk allowed us to incorporate a fun activity which both promoted wellbeing and the use of technology in a way to make it less intimidating. We received some fantastic feedback and have more walks planned!

What went well?

What worked so well was the mix of the outdoor activity which promoted wellbeing, the group setting which allowed carers to socialise and connect with one another, and the use of technology and print-outs.

I think a top tip for any organisation wanting to try this activity with their target audience would be to have the apps pre-downloaded and open on the devices ready for people to use. This way, the pressure of knowing specifically how to use the device is reduced. For many carers we have supported within our digital inclusion project, a fear of pressing a wrong button is very common and this quick preparation before made the use of this technology accessible for all.

What did people think?

‘This was such a unique activity and nothing like we have ever offered before. The feedback was so good that we are going to run similar sessions on a more regular basis. It was great to see old-school paper and new-school technology work together side by side, meaning that no-one felt left out

Nikki Pattinson, Carer Engagement Lead, Carers Leeds

The apps used

Tree ID from the Woodland Trust

Printable nature guides from the Field Studies Council