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Tunstall Carecom

A new report by Hft and Cebr, which offers an annual snapshot of the financial health of the social care sector, has revealed some interesting insights into the way in which social care providers use assistive technology, what the barriers are and the benefits of the technology.

Assistive technology refers to a range of supportive technologies and services that enable people live more independently, including telecare products, communication aids, apps and door access solutions.

Out of the 77 survey respondents in the 2019 Sector Pulse Check report, three-quarters said they use assistive technology, however, only 19 percent of social care providers said they use assistive technology as a core part of their service provision. 19 percent said they do not use assistive technology at all.

Of the social care providers that use assistive technology, communication aids (79 percent) – such as hearing aids and smartphones to facilitate communication – and door access solutions (72 percent) were the most widely-used solutions.

Apps (55 percent), low tech devices (53 percent) – like talking scales – and voice assistants (47 percent) were the next most-used devices by social care providers. Telecare (38 percent), switch access (36 percent), digital care recording (34 percent) and telehealth (11 percent) are the least commonly-used assistive technologies, according to the survey.

When asked about the main reasons why they use assistive technology, the top reasons stated by social care providers were to increase independence, communication, sensory support and entertainment.

However, interestingly, four in five social care providers admitted to not using assistive technology to its full potential, with many citing costs and funding as the main barriers to using the technologies. 71 percent said that local authorities are unwilling to fund assistive technology.

A lack of awareness of assistive technology and uncertainty of using such devices, and where to source them, were commonly noted as barriers. Only 12 percent of social care organisations said there were no solutions available to meet their needs.

Responding to this, Hft said in the report: “Very few organisations said that there are not the assistive technology solutions available to meet their needs, suggesting that the right equipment exists, but funding and implementation barriers are stopping social care providers from using it.”

Looking at some of the benefits of assistive technology, the report outlines that whilst some social care organisations are not using assistive technology or are not using the technology to its full potential, many of the providers recognise the benefits that assistive technology brings.

Three-quarters said that they considered improved outcomes for the recipients of social care support to be a benefit of assistive technology, around two-thirds noted that assistive devices can facilitate greater independence and 66 percent said assistive technology frees up staff time to offer more meaningful support.

The importance and benefits of assistive technology are being recognised by more and more councils across the country. Recently, Doncaster Council launched a new campaign encouraging locals to explore the benefits of assistive technology.

Additionally, Rochdale Borough Council has been utilising cutting-edge assistive technology to keep its residents safe and independent at home, providing one elderly lady with grab rails, bed sensors, a property exit sensor and a falls detector in her home for added reassurance.

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