CHESHIRE West and Chester’s army of unpaid carers are about to get a digital boost that will get them online and able to access vital services.

A batch of 300 new iPads is winging its way to homes across the borough with no or limited access to digital technology, thanks to funding secured by Cheshire West and Chester Council.

The rollout will enable unpaid carers to attend appointments, use the online pharmacy prescription services, and take part in events and support sessions remotely.

Councillor Val Armstrong, cabinet member for adult social care and public health, said: “Difficulties in maintaining contact with family and accessing vital health and social care services, which have had to move online, have made the past year especially challenging for carers who don’t have regular, long-term access to IT equipment.

“We recognise this problem is especially acute for carers at a time when keeping people connected is more important than ever.

“Our unpaid carers have shown phenomenal resilience and dedication during this pandemic. The roll-out of these iPads will offer a lifeline to those who are feeling most isolated and go some way to supporting them to do the amazing work they do every day.”

A report from Carer UK in October 2020 found that: “There has been a huge increase in the availability and use of online services and digital technology. 33% of carers started using new technology and digital services during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“But there is a growing digital divide with 10% of carers reporting that their ability to use digital technology was limited because they struggled to afford things like equipment, WiFi or data and this rose to 18% for carers who were struggling financially.”

The funding has been secured through the Government’s Infection Control grant scheme to buy the iPads to give to the most digitally disadvantaged carers. Eligible residents have been identified through Cheshire West and Chester’s dedicated carer support services and GPs.

Those eligible had to be adults who have internet access in their homes but did not have access to suitable technology.

If all goes to plan, it is hoped that all the carers will have their devices by the end of March.

They will then be asked to join in a review after receiving the equipment to measure the impact it has had upon their daily lives.