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Cross-party thinktank Policy Connect and the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Assistive Technology (APPGAT) have launched the Commission on Smart Homes and Independent Living.

Smart home technologies allow people to control household appliances, fixtures and fittings through a single device. These new tools are an increasingly important part of disabled and older people’s lives.

APPGAT and Policy Connect say these assistive technologies give unprecedented control over people’s immediate environment and connect people more easily with family, friends and public services, importantly but not solely the health and social care sector. They can also be integrated into social care services to meet a range of different personal needs and operational challenges.

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The commission will make recommendations to government on how the latest technologies for the home can be used to help disabled and older people lead healthy, independent and socially rewarding domestic lives.

It will be chaired by Councillor Sir Paul Carter CBE, the former leader of Kent County Council. The steering group will also include Liz Twist MP, leading academics in technology and social care, industry experts and people with lived experience.

The Smart Homes and Independent Living Commission’s project outline notes that smart home technologies’ potential to help people live more independently has not yet been fully realised by the UK Government.

“As the Government prepares to publish a National Strategy for Disabled People in 2021, and with the focus on the operation of care homes and home-based caring during the pandemic potentially leading to a raft of post-Covid-19 reforms, we have a significant opportunity to put smart homes at the centre of the social care policy making agenda at the highest level,” the document reads.

The Smart Homes and Independent Living Commission will address three key themes:

  1. Social care commissioning: How can government support local authorities and provide incentives in the commissioning of more innovative social care provision using smart home technology?
  2. Social care service provision: How can government, local authorities, regulators and industry support carers to develop the skills and practices necessary to help older and disabled people to benefit from smart technology?
  3. Market shaping: How can government ensure new and existing housing can support smart home technology, and work with industry to ensure smart home software, devices and services are designed to facilitate independence?

The commission has already brought together experts from across the social care, housing and technology sectors to discuss how commissioning processes can be aligned with the principles of independent living in light of these technological trends, including potential reforms to the Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG).

Recently, the Smart Homes and Independent Living Commission held its second of three roundtables, which explored social care service delivery and workforce development issues.

These roundtables will collect evidence that will be used to develop the commission’s findings and inform a report that will be published later this year.

Policy Connect is a cross-party thinktank with four main policy pillars: education & skills; industry, technology & innovation; sustainability; and health & accessibility.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Assistive Technology (APPGAT) aims to disseminate knowledge, generate debate and facilitate engagement on assistive technology amongst members of both Houses of Parliament. APPGAT will do this through holding events in Parliament, bringing experts together for roundtable discussions and briefings, contributing to government consultations, and promoting the group and its activities amongst parliamentarians.

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