Over 100 local projects were funded between 2016 and March this year, which included a huge range of innovations, from the development of apps which can prevent falls to computer-controlled robots which help carers to lift people.
The ‘cobots’ are robotic devices worn around the waist and lower back to support carers, reducing the risk of injury and meaning tasks can be carried out by one carer instead of two – cutting the risk of infection, a crucial benefit during the pandemic.
These were developed through some of the 49 projects supported by the Social Care Digital Innovation Programme and the Social Care Digital Innovation Accelerators, which were run in collaboration with the Local Government Association as part of the overall Social Care Programme.
The tools not only improved social care, but also empowered people by giving them more control over their own wellbeing.
When the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic hit in the midst of some of the projects, the teams adapted so that digital tools could continue to support people – such as by using tablets and voice-activated speakers to help people feel connected during lockdown, or by assessments for long-term care taking place online.
We now want more people across the country to be able to benefit from these fantastic technologies and so we’re encouraging more social care providers, local authorities and charities to adopt them.
One of our main aims is to ensure these examples of best practice reach as many people as possible – so we’re also shouting about the success of products developed through the Digital Social Care Pathfinders.
These digital tools were developed to transform care, for example by using digital technology to reduce delayed transfers of care, or to prevent health conditions worsening by using artificial intelligence and machine learning to predict care needs.
The real-world benefits are numerous – a great example being the remote technology which monitors care home residents, particularly through the night, to alert staff to unusual movements or people calling for help. Participating care homes saw a large reduction in falls and in one case, it alerted them to a resident who had suffered a cardiac arrest during the night.