The Digital Carers Phenomenon

Millions of people around the UK are supporting others to access a world that has seen a seven year acceleration in digital services.

Summary

Millions of people around the UK are supporting others to access a world that has seen a seven year acceleration in digital services. These people are supporting others on a weekly basis. This support is voluntary, informal and based on necessity. This paper explores who this group are, why they are doing it and how they could constitute a major source of influence and power when we work to address the growing digital divide.

Healthwave has analysed multiple sets of data from National and County level surveys which were focussed on learning about how people tend to support one another to use digital or online services. For example, those who report providing help to a friend or relative to access banking, healthcare and online retail services or to use a mobile app and navigate the internet.

We found that when asked whether they had engaged in this type of activity, between 23-30% of respondents said ‘Yes’. The data also shows that the level of support being provided is frequent and intense.

This data comes from one national survey (500 participants) and two county-wide surveys (501 & 250 participants) in separate parts of England. We believe these figures indicate that a significant proportion of society is involved in supporting others to access everyday services. We’ve described this group of people as “Digital Carers”. Whilst the general public might not consider themselves as ‘carers’ in this role, they are looking after another person, and with the risk of people being disconnected given the increasing reliance on technology in our daily lives, this role is a significant one.

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