Research into how social care providers are using technology to improve the lives of people they support has been shared by a national charity supporting adults with learning disabilities at a conference in Manchester.
Emma Nichols and Ben Williams work in the Personalised Technology team at Hft, where they provide people with learning disabilities with technology that will increase their independence. The pair were among the speakers sharing their expertise at the Learning Disabilities and Autism: Improving Care conference in Manchester on 12 March, which focused on improving care, support and life chances for anyone living with or affected by learning disabilities or autism. Hft shared insight as part of a discussion on how providers are using technology, and what prevents them from using it more readily.
As the basis of their presentation, Emma and Ben drew on Hft’s annual Sector Pulse Check research, which provides a snapshot of the financial health of the social care sector and analyses the impact of financial pressures on services providing care to people with learning disabilities.
The latest edition of the report, which was launched in February 2020, includes information on how providers are using the growing potential of assistive technologies. A range of supportive equipment is now available to people with learning disabilities, from epilepsy sensors that alert staff quickly if a seizure is detected, to fingerprint recognition systems that enable people to open their front door without a key.
The report found that the benefits of assistive technology are widely recognised, with three out of four (76%) providers saying that use of technology leads to improved outcomes for the people they support. A further 68% of providers said that people becoming more independent was a key benefit of technology, while 66% reported that assistive technology has freed up staff to offer more meaningful support.
Emma Nichols is Personalised Technology Manager at Hft, which offers consultancy services including person-centred assessments, training about personalised technology and advice and help implementing solutions into services. She said: “It was fantastic to be invited to speak at the Open Forum conference. While we were delighted to see from our Sector Pulse Check research that a large majority of providers recognise the benefits of technology in this year’s Sector Pulse Check research, 81% of respondents said they were not yet using it to its full potential, with three quarters (75%) of providers citing a lack of funding as the cause.
“We believe that effective investment could unlock the potential of assistive technology, which we know from experience can transform the way support is delivered. We’ve seen first-hand how simple solutions such as flood sensors or medicine dispensers, which can remind someone to take their medication or alert staff members to a potential risk, can ultimately help people gain their independence and live with more safety, privacy, choice and control.”