Participation in Action: Bedfordshire children build mobile app for young carers

Adam Offord
Tuesday, August 18, 2015

A group of secondary schoolchildren from Bedfordshire have created a mobile phone application to support isolated young carers.

Pupils at Denbigh High School in Luton set out to design an app that would change young carers’ lives for the better
Pupils at Denbigh High School in Luton set out to design an app that would change young carers’ lives for the better

Provider CDI Apps for Good
Name Who Cares?

Life as a young carer can be a lonely experience, as most of the child’s time is spent looking after a member of the family who may be sick, disabled, suffer from mental health issues, or drug or alcohol problems.

A new mobile phone application created by five 13- and 14-year-old pupils at Denbigh High School in Luton, Bedfordshire, has been designed to combat the issue of isolation and provide a wealth of support and information to young carers across the UK.

Using mobile satellite navigation, the Who Cares? app links to Google Maps to pinpoint support services, clubs and community centres, as well as GP surgeries, in the area where the young carer lives.

It also links to NHS services so young carers that are looking after a family member with special needs can access information and guidance.

They can also use the application to gain access to Carers Trust’s online support network, known as “Babble”, to find a wide range of support and gain easy access to forums, view other websites such as Virgin Carers Club and access emergency services.

Group member Itesham, aged 13, says: “We are not young carers ourselves, but we are young people and we all know someone like us who has to take care of a relative or friend.

“The problem that we are trying to solve is how can you help carers get back into society, meet others like themselves and access essential support services that they need – all in one place.”

When they set out to design the app the group of boys researched the problems young carers often have to face, and met young carers to discuss the issues first hand. They also approached Carers Trust to see if they could incorporate links to the trust’s website and Babble into their app.

“They show compassion and real understanding about the issues young carers face,” says Carers Trust chief executive Gail Scott-Spicer.

“We know from what young people tell us that caring responsibilities can have a big impact on a child’s mental wellbeing.”

“Our research shows just how much Babble is needed to combat the risk of isolation and to make sure these young people are as happy as they can be,” Scott-Spicer adds.

“This fantastic new app, which links to our Babble site, will help to reach out to many more isolated young carers who desperately need help and support.”

The Who Cares? app is being developed by Gourmet Pixel after it won the people’s choice award in the annual Apps for Good awards. It will be released – under a new name to avoid clashing with the name of another organisation’s app – either on the Apple App Store or the Google Play store in 2016.

Apps for Good is part of a global movement to use technology to enable young people to learn in more interesting ways. The awards are an opportunity to celebrate the next generation of problem-solvers and digital makers with student teams aged between eight and 18.

The Denbigh High School boys pitched their idea to a group of industry experts from companies including the Guardian, TeenTech, Heathrow Airport and EE in a “Dragon’s Den” style grilling and made it through to the final.

Although the app didn’t win, it was backed by the public, who voted online for the finalist they wanted to win the people’s choice award.

“We presented our app with pride and passion to the masses of important business people in London. Overall my favourite thing is that our small vision to change lives will now become a reality,” says Itesham.

To watch a video of the boys talking about their design go to www.appsforgood.org/public/awards/2015/who-cares.

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