Digital Solutions for Rural Young Carers: Phase One of Our SSHRC PEG Project

In Ontario alone, it is estimated that there are over 500,000 young carers who provide physical, medical, emotional, or other supports to a parent, grandparent, or sibling at home (The Change Foundation, n.d.). Young carers often juggle school and/or jobs on top of their responsibilities to provide care. Without appropriate and adequate supports, young carers can experience “the young carer penalty” (Stamatopoulos, 2018), which includes short- and long-term harm to academic, personal, social, and professional development (Chalmers & Lucyk, 2012).

Dr. Kristine Newman, in partnership with the Powerhouse Project, received a Partnership Engagement Grant (PEG) from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) to understand the needs of this hidden population and work towards implementing young carer supports guided by stakeholder input. Our key collaborators include Michelle Lewis (Powerhouse Project), Heather Chalmers (Brock University), Vivian Stamatopoulos (Ontario Tech), Emily Lambe (Schlegel-UW Research Institute for Aging) and Christa Haanstra (The Change Foundation). 

Our focus on young carers extends to those living in rural areas, looking at the impacts of social isolation and internet access disparities in obtaining typically digitalized resources. The team conducted in-person focus groups with young carers affiliated the Powerhouse Project, centring the discussions around technology use by rural young carers. The focus groups indicated the that young carers much preferred informational and practical videos that provided tips on how to care for loved ones. 

The team is currently working to create a pilot informational video, on the topic of emergency preparedness for young carers, inspired by the recent world events including the COVID-19 pandemic and the outcomes of the Phase One focus group. Our team is looking to involve young carers in the development of this video, ensuring their input is relayed into content and creative choices to develop a meaningful and engaging video that is highly useful for viewers.

We would like to sincerely thank all members of the young carer community and collaborators for participating in Phase One of this exciting grant project, and the team is very keen to move forward with the pilot video for Phase Two. This will serve to inform our future efforts in creating supports for young carers, to ensure that they are indeed helpful and highly accessible to individuals across different demographics and geographical locations.

References

Chalmers, H. & Lucyk, L. (2012). The impact of caregiving: Is it who I am or what I do? Relational Child and Youth Care Practice. 25(2), 37-46.

Stamatopoulos, V. (2018). The young carer penalty: Exploring the costs of caregiving among a sample of Canadian youth. Child & Youth Services39(2-3), 180-205.

The Change Foundation. (n.d.). Ontario’s Young Carers. Retrieved from https://changefoundation.ca/ontarios-young-carers/

We would like to thank Michelle Lewis and the Young Carers Association for some of the photographs utilized in this story.