Better Care in the Age of Automation is a new report produced by Doteveryone an independent think tank who champions responsible technology for a fairer future in a changing society. The think tank recommends the setting up of a Royal College for Carers professionalise the care workforce.
According to the report social care need not be something for individuals to fear and a burden for society to bear. It can be a vital part of improving lives, increasing wellbeing and productivity.
The report sets out how technology can support a sustainable, effective and fair social care system. It does not prescribe tech solutions but describes the foundations needed for any technology to be responsibly and effectively deployed, specifically:
● the data needed to build and measure technology focused on wellbeing;
● the skills required to use tech to care;
● the culture to empower people to adopt and shape technology to their needs.
These recommendations don’t require more money to be thrown at an already bankrupt system. Instead they show how to strengthen the care system so that future investments in technologies make meaningful change. The investment required now is the courage and imagination to see beyond immediate crises and build a social care system fit for the age of automation.
Adopting a more pro-active approach to enabling carers to make more use of technology could potentially result vast savings to staff costs. The Institute for Public Policy Research calculates 30% of work done by adult social care staff could be automated, with savings and improvements valued at £6 billion. The UK Robotics and Autonomous Systems Network claims robots could proactively help with “medicine adherence, nutrition and rehabilitation support, as well as social engagement.”
Whether or not these promises can be fulfilled, there’s no question that technology is already having an impact on the UK’s social care system and will decisively shape its future.
Underpinning the responsible use of technology
The work undertaken by Doteveryone and it cohorts primarily focuses upon three areas that must underpin the responsible use of technology in the social care sector.
Although the care system collects vast amounts of data, the think tank claims that current metrics focus on costs and processes and not outcomes for the individual, family or community. Building and using technology responsibly requires data that measures what matters to people, reflects the interconnectedness of services, systems, and communities, and promotes decision making for the long term.
Technology can never replace human care professionals and the complex, relationship based and creative nature of their work. But used well, technologies can assist in mundane tasks, augment the job of caring and improve people’s lives. More technology on the front line will mean more tech support and more complex decision making on the front line and carers will need the skills to do this.
Many benefits claimants are reluctant to adopt new technologies because they fear any change in their lives could jeopardise vital support packages. Older and disabled people feel excluded from an ableist and ageist design community and complain of unsuitable and unappealing products that don’t take into account their own goals, ideas and experiences.
Doteveryone has done extensive research with people who receive care and their families, care professionals, clinicians, policymakers, start-ups and providers to understand the current impact of technology in the social care and its potential to shape the future.
I agree that technology is having a growing impact on social care services and will undoubtably shape its future. But as I have reported before on the Japanese experience with robotics. Technology is not a panacea. It cannot replace care provided by human beings but can be used to save time on some of the mundane activities carried out by carers.
Technology should be used to support the activities of carers not replace them. We must guard against a prime focus on technology, but instead adopt a more balanced approach where staff in social care services are trained to provide quality services including the use of technology in the process. Whether or not this can be achieved through a Royal College for Carers is open to debate, but the industry is crying out for training to professionalise the social care workforce.
Albert Cook Albert Cook BA, MA & Fellow Charted Quality Institute Managing Director Bettal Quality Consultancy