Today the Voluntary Organisations Disability Group (VODG) launches a new report on how social care providers are embracing technology to improve services. The group argues that commissioning practices must keep pace with technological change to support quality improvement.
The report coincides with the Department for Communities and Local Government social care inquiry which is calling for evidence on innovative approaches to the design and delivery of adult social care, including through the use of technology.
VODG finds digital technology is enabling people using care and support services to exercise greater choice, control and autonomy and to live more safely. The use of GPS systems to ensure that people remain within an area they can safely manage, movement sensors that tell staff whether someone is ok, gadgets – from medication dispensers to talking microwaves – that promote independence, and touchscreen technology all mean that social care has the tools to become a high tech sector.
VODG chief executive Professor Rhidian Hughes says:
“Digital technology offers opportunities to improve how we support people both at home and in residential care, how we communicate with people with specific communication needs and how we enable people to remain as independent as possible while managing the risks.”
However, there is a dilemma for care and support providers as new technology requires significant up-front investment which can generate long-term savings, for instance by reducing someone’s reliance on paid staff. But these technological solutions are rarely commissioned by local authorities. Therefore VODG is calling on local authorities to commission services based on outcomes rather than fixed hourly rates. This would give providers the confidence to invest in technologies which can simultaneously improve quality of life and reduce long-term care costs.
Holly Dagnall of Nottingham Community Housing Association who contributed to the report states:
“As a housing and care provider we recognise the significance that technology can play in supporting people, and we continuously work hard to develop new and innovative approaches to ensure quality service delivery.”
Paul Cusworth of Real Life Options who also contributed to the report adds:
“Purchasing, implementing and maintaining technology is often expensive and companies in the sector often have limited resources to support technology. This makes the decision making process very important.”
VODG will be supporting providers to maximise the benefits of technology to deliver high quality and efficient care and support services.