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How technology can help families to care

19 March 2012

In a new report published today, Carers UK has called for a technological transformation to support families caring for ill, frail and disabled loved ones.

Care and technology in the 21st century argues that the way families already use technology to work, plan their lives, shop and socialize should also be reflected in how they care for ill, frail or disabled loved ones.

The report also launches a new partnership, Connect: Toolkits for Assisted Living, between the charity, and partners including Microsoft. As the demographic shift of an ageing population and the squeeze on public spending put a dual pressure on both families and health and social care services; the partnership will look at how technology can help families manage and plan care better, and improve efficiency in health and care services.

Carers UK Chief Executive Heléna Herklots, said: “Families are struggling to juggle increasingly busy work and family lives, and the potential for technology to support them has not yet been realized. Most of us book holidays, buy insurance and do our shopping online – yet, approaches to arranging care for your elderly parent or booking childcare support for a disabled child are stuck in the past. It is time to change this.”

The project will explore how technology can help create virtual networks to help family members to juggle care for disabled or older relatives between them; and remote technology to enable family members and NHS staff to monitor the health and wellbeing of older people and those with long-term conditions in their own homes.

As the Government prepares to publish a White Paper on reforming social care, Carers UK’s report calls on the Government to set up an independent expert taskforce to bring together the project partners with Government and other key stakeholders including researchers, developers, businesses, providers, employers, employer organisations, regulators and users – to work together to unlock the potential of technology.

President of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services and Strategic Director, Adults & Communities for Birmingham City Council, Peter Hay said:

‘Telecare technology makes it possible to provide support that isn't intrusive, gives confidence and is affordable. So it has to be part of today's offer to carers and people with care needs. It's as life changing as a carer getting proper sleep because technology can take the place of the carer having to sleep with an ear open.’

Mike Biddle, Innovation Platform Leader, from the Technology Strategy Board, one of the partner organisations delivering the new Connect - Toolkits for Assisted Living initiative, said:

'It’s important for us to be engaged in this new collaboration with Carers UK. By investing in and promoting new technologies we are looking at a triple win - improving health and quality of life; making health and social care services more sustainable and also in making the UK a world leader in emerging health and care technology.'

Notes:

Carers UK is a charity set up to support the millions of people who care for an elderly relative, a sick partner or a disabled family member.

Carers UK:

  • supports carers and provides information and advice about caring
  • influences policy through our research
  • campaigns to make life better for carers.

Connect: Toolkits for Assisted Living is part of the Technology Strategy Board’s Assisted Living Innovation Platform (ALIP). The innovation platform has been supporting research and development in health and care technologies since its launch in November 2007. It aims to develop flexible new solutions for family or self management of health and care which can be delivered anytime and anywhere.

ALIP projects to date have demonstrated how inexpensive, commodity-based technology services and devices can support older people, those with long-term conditions and their care networks. Connect: Toolkits for Assisted Living aims to build on this previous knowledge. It will test a number of technology tools, including:

  • RallyRound, a Microsoft web-based solution enabling carers to set up care networks for an older or vulnerable person, aimed particularly at people combining paid work with care
  • JabloPhone, a GSM phone which connects an older or vulnerable person at home with a care network and provides a response in case of emergency
  • Docobo Home Hub, a home telehealth monitoring service for long term conditions
  • Warm Neighbourhoods, a home environment monitoring system that provides reassurance to older or vulnerable people and their care networks

It will explore how these and other Assisted Living services can be deployed in real-life and at scale. It will look at how services and products can be delivered – and marketed – through an interoperable ‘toolbox’ of available solutions, to ensure that small and medium sized enterprises can enter or compete in the market and to generate innovative growth opportunities.

Connect partners include: Advanced Digital Institute, Building Research Establishment, Carers UK, Docobo, Foundation for Assistive Technologies, HoIP, LSE Enterprise, Microsoft, Telecare Services Association, University of Westminster.

Care and technology in the 21st century is the first of Carers UK’s Future Care series, looking at innovation in care. To download the full piece visit www.carersuk.org/professionals/resources/research-library

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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