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Commission calls for greater use of technology in social care

23/03/21

Mark Say Managing Editor

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Not enough local authorities or care providers are using available technology within social care, according to the final report of a commission exploring the issue.

Elderly woman and social worker using tablet computer

Led by the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) and the TEC Services Association (TSA), it found pockets of best practice but concluded that projects are rarely joined up and turned into intelligence to prevent people reaching a crisis.

Over the past five months, commission members have heard evidence from nearly 60 people including individuals and their relatives who access social care support, frontline care professionals, directors of adult social care, housing and health leaders and technology suppliers.

In the report, Exploring how technology can be truly integrated into social care, the commission now calls on the government to fund a two-year programme of 10 innovation projects to begin the process of normalising the use of digital in the sector.

It says that best practice from the proposed Personalised Care Innovation Programme should then be rolled out to all 151 local authority adult social care services in England to create a national, digitally enabled social care system. This should be supported by multi-year funding from central government.

The commission is also urging government to urgently invest £450 million to replace current care and housing technology infrastructure, much of which is outdated and reliant on analogue phonelines.

User design

It recommends that council commissioners involve people, their families and carers much more in the design and co-production of digital social care services, and that suppliers should work more closely with individuals when designing support apps and devices.

In addition, directors of adult social care are called on to make their services more proactive and preventative by collaborating with service providers and manufacturers.

The commission also recommends that by 2025 NHSX should enable every person in England to control their own health and social care records. This would be accompanied by the government working in partnership to develop a Digital Inclusion Plan by 2022, ensuring no-one is excluded from digital social care.

Major gaps in the digital skills of care professionals are outlined in the report, with a request that government includes digital literacy and data sharing training in its future social care workforce strategy. It also asks government to encourage health and care organisations to share data more, rebalancing the perceived risks around data protection.

In addition, the commission recommends that the new NHS structure of integrated care systems considers the provision of digital social care provision as well as healthcare.

Elusive

Iain MacBeath, strategic director of health and wellbeing at City of Bradford Metropolitan District Council and ADASS honorary treasurer, said: “Truly integrating technology with adult social care has eluded most parts of the country. There are some shining examples, but it’s rarely connected or proactive.

“This commission has sought to understand why this is and how we can change it. We are recommending that new, digital skills should be brought into councils, different tender specifications must be used, and that the government future proofs technology infrastructure through proper investment.”

Image from rowanatkins.co

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