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Smart Home Care: Collaboration is the Key

– Paul Botsford
He is the Head of Assisted Living Technology & Services at Secure UK Ltd, the exclusive supplier of Beanbag Care.


It is universally agreed that smart care technology will play an important role in reforming adult social care, but public sector adoption remains stubbornly limited. Paul Botsford from Beanbag Care discusses how the latest care tech is evolving – and how collaboration is the key to breaking the adoption deadlock.

Although the pandemic ignited an explosion in the rates of home technology adoption, particularly around home working, entertainment and leisure, the growth of smart care technology has remained steady and, at best, sporadic.

Sensors and IoT solutions are now firmly established and proven technologies, but many local authorities remain cautious regarding the scale and pace of adoption.

The last year has seen Beanbag Care (Secure UK Ltd) build relationships with a number of local authorities, in the shape of pilot and specialist care projects.

One such project saw Beanbag Care support people living at home with dementia – as well as family members providing support.

It was interesting to note that the specialist nature of the project gave that local authority the licence to be bolder, and to work collaboratively with us to decipher the data generated and optimise the system for effective future use.

There was also financial support available, and councils have begun accessing Disabled Facility Grants, funds traditionally used for home adaptations such as handrails and wet rooms, for technology that supports independence.

This has helped break the deadlock for some local authorities, who have utilised the extra resources to scale up the size of technology pilots. This has increased the number of home installations and generated a bigger dataset from which to evaluate effectiveness and value.

What does the market want?

To date, the appeal of Beanbag Care to local authorities has fallen into three categories.

Firstly, the monitoring of the quality and safety of the home environment, secondly, a remote window on the wellbeing of the resident, and thirdly, the regular, direct feedback from service users on the quality of care received.

Secure UK Ltd’s background in precision metering and heating technology, and its decades of experience in utilities and home monitoring is also proving appealing to customers.

Local authorities and housing providers are seeking new ways to monitor the quality of home environments, particularly since the tragic death of Awaab Ishak in Rochdale.

As a result, growing numbers see a value in multifaceted solutions that expand the capabilities of remote home monitoring, combining home care data and environment monitoring – particularly temperature and humidity levels that can lead to mould growth.

Recent care trials

Returning to a recent care project, the level of detail provided by Beanbag Care proved to be particularly insightful, particularly for dementia suffers.

With the appropriate authorisation, designated family members can access welfare data via their smart phones, and the intelligence provided on those living with dementia will often contradict their understanding of the condition.

For example, rather than remaining in bed, or even staying at home, service users were discovered to be active around the home throughout the night, or even leaving their house alone at unusual times – contradicting the preconceived understanding of their behaviour.

In these circumstances, the family can intervene, as the service user is clearly at risk if this behaviour persists. Equipped with insightful data, the family can organise the appropriate support and discuss their needs with statutory services.

Safe communication

Another aspect of Beanbag Care’s stock that has risen is its security as a video communication device, due to anxiety around phone scammers. Older and vulnerable people are increasingly unsure about answering their home or mobile phone, even to number they recognise, due to their fear of being scammed.

It was always the intention that Beanbag Care’s tablet-style interfaces would help combat isolation, connecting service users to designated contacts through video, but additionally, users find the security of the system reassuring.

Because Beanbag Care is a closed loop, service users know that any inbound call is safe, secure and risk-free.

Early intervention

We’ve also noticed that many local authorities are now prioritising proactive and early intervention, and using smart, connected technology as a cost-effective approach to caring for older people.

Rather than waiting for people to reach a point of crisis, allowing people’s health and independence to deteriorate, Independent Care Boards have identified that intervention at an earlier stage can keep people healthier, independent, and safer at home for longer – and out of the NHS and primary care.

A pound spent on prevention through better monitoring can make for a healthier and happier household, allowing for early detection of health issues, and saving much more money on future hospital bed occupancy.

Accelerating deployment

In recent joint white paper with the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS), the Telecare Service Association (TSA) posed the question ‘How can technology be truly integrated into adult social care?’

The ADASS and TSA commission a set of recommendations based on 1.9 million new requests for social care support received by councils in 2019-20 alone, and a further five million people trying to balance the responsibilities of caring with work and family life.

One of the three key recommendations for local and national governments is that ‘technology must be used proactively so that people with a need are identified, and solutions put in place before they reach a crisis.’

Although, in my experience, most people working in adult social care for local authorities would agree with this ambition, the big challenge is in the pace and scale of adoption.

Everyone understands why councils need to carefully consider the various technology options available to them – and take advantage of the data and evidence generated from limited pilot programmes.

However, it’s important to note that an over-reliance on a conservative approach to pilots has implications for those most in need, as it delays the adoption of what is now mostly proven technology.

The reality is that a pilot programme will very rarely match the quality of results, data, or output of a fuller installation that has been in place for a year or two, due in most part to the level of partnership and commitment that is required to achieve optimal system performance.

Whichever smart care tech supplier a local authority opts to work with, the long-term value will always be determined by a collaborative approach to making robust technology as effective as possible – not by short-term pilots.

The ADASS and TSA whitepaper makes the same point, stating that: ‘More collaboration is needed in care and support across all levels, so services and policies are joined up and contribute to the wider wellbeing of people, their families and carers.’

In short, we need to collaborate to deliver bigger and bolder deployments that will accelerate adoption and embed proven technology in homes and organisations.