www.norfolk blurb .co.uk Norfolk Text Pal Project Virtual Peer Support
Norfolk Blurb Norfolk County Council’s international award winning website for young people. Develop a range of eParticipation provision, enabling young people to: <ul><ul><li>Voice their views and opinions </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Shape local services </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Discover things to do and places to go </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Provide and access peer support </li></ul>
Digital Challenge Pilot: We identified young carers as a group that we could support through a pilot. Norfolk’s Digital Challenge bid chose to focus on those considered ‘harder to reach’ and ‘at risk’ Aim: To encourage social inclusion through the use of digital technologies.
<ul><li>Sometimes, when they need a friend to talk to, there may not be anyone there </li></ul>Why young carers? <ul><li>At least 2,000 youngsters, some as young as five, have to act as a carer for their parents or siblings </li></ul><ul><li>Some young carers find it hard to make or keep in contact with friends </li></ul>
Text Pal aimed to support isolated young carers to make new friends by practically linking them to peer volunteer ‘text pals’ via mobile phones Text Pal pilot
6 steps to the setup 1. 10 young volunteer ‘text pals’ were recruited and trained 2. Their profiles were available online 3. 10 young carers each chose a text pal 4. Appropriate behavior contracts signed 5. Each young person was provided with a mobile phone 6. Young people text and call each other
The simple things count. Ok, but I’m really tired. Mum didn’t sleep very well Again :( :( Have u had a chance 2 grab a break? Catch up on Heroes? How’s ur day been 2day? Yeh might try and see it a bit later, was it gd?
Initial evaluation “ It’s given me the chance to tell someone my worries that I would not tell my friends” - Young Carer “The project is an amazing experience” - Text Pal “ There is someone else to talk to - I’ve been a lot happier” - Young Carer “ I have a new friend to think about… I also appreciate more of the work that young carers do - she really works hard” - Text Pal
Initial lessons learnt Choose the right mobile phone! Don’t underestimate the time required to provide support to the participants, including mobile phone support! Maintain contact with the young people. Make sure they feel able to raise any concerns/problems experienced.
Sustainability Project could be continued by linking young people together, providing support and requiring young people to use their own phones Pilot continued - ran for two years finished December 2008 - young people kept the mobile phones, final evaluation carried out Developed a social networking site after the first year to expand the project and to provide a safe environment for people to make friends - available for all young people
2. Shared similar format to Bebo, Myspace and Facebook 3. Users created a profile (interests, hobbies etc) 4. Browsed users’ profiles, made friend requests 5. Sent messages, built relationships, gained support 6. Profiles and messages were moderated prior to being published 1. Promoted as a virtual peer support network for young people
Initial use Initially high interest in the project 50 profiles created within the first month High levels of hits on online adverts Text Pal Projects won a finalist ICELE award and an award in the Community & Heritage awards Many users began using it to build relationships
Feedback from users ‘ Co z I Want To Meet New People In A Safe Way. And Get More Communicated With Others’ 13, Breckland ‘ I want to be a text pal because I want to meet new people in a safe place! ’ 13, South Norfolk ‘ So I have some friends after having a baby’ 20, Broadland
Current position 160 profiles currently on site Steady decline in usage Mainstream social networking sites usage has increased Site also requires several updates to ensure it continues to provide an attractive resource for young people Minimal promotion due to shortages in funding
Challenges Engaging young people whilst remaining safe – the inability to be able to upload personal images and instantly publish content has discouraged participation from some young people. Identified initial friend request was discouraging young people’s participation, many users were not logging in regularly. Users were left with friend requests outstanding for a substantial amount of time.
Lessons learnt Updates to profiles and messages sent needs to be approved within a maximum of a day Some degree of personalisation is required to encourage young people to interact with the site Young people do want a safe alternative to mainstream social networking sites Lots of other potential uses once the network has been established
Future developments Bid to the MOJ Innovations Fund for practitioner profiles enabling young people to engage with councillors, youth workers and social workers was unsuccessful Text Pal online will not be included initially in planned revamp of Blurb website Focusing on mainstream SNS developments
Social Networking Sites Virtual detached youth work pilot Building a network of young people to have their say on local services Marketing and promotion – promoting things to do, places to go Participating in SNS and Youth Participation Learning Set
Widgets/Apps Developing widgets to enable young people to: Be better informed following participation in service user events and consultations To record and reflect on their participation, sharing and promoting opportunities to their peers etc.