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New report tackles barriers to technology-enabled care (TEC)

TEC Services Association (TSA) and PA Consulting address the many challenges preventing investment in tech now seen as ‘vital’ to social care.  

Technology-enabled care, ranging from traditional alarms and sensors to more sophisticated smart devices that help people maintain independence, are a vital component of their social care offer. That was the response from 100% of adult social care leaders across the UK, surveyed for the report. So why is it so hard to get investment in this tech – and what can be done about that? 

Two people using a tablet in a social care setting

Photo courtesy of TEC Services Association

The report, ‘From Ambition to Action’, explores this issue in depth. It has been compiled from qualitative and quantitative research, including analysis of primary data collected through online web surveys and TSA data sets alongside secondary data from sector stakeholder literature and national data sets such as from ONS and NHS. A survey of senior leaders in adult social care was conducted between December 2023 and January 2024, with 42 responses received from 40 UK councils. 

The results show the various ways TEC can be used to transform lives, whether extending support to children and young people with special needs, to those with disabilities, and to older people. It can also support unpaid carers and assist in hospital discharge. Given pressures on health and social care services, this is a significant and much-needed help. 

Yet while 97% of adult social care leaders surveyed agree that TEC is an important way to respond to what’s been called a ‘tidal wave of demand and complexity’ facing the sector, some 80% also say that it is a challenge to build a case for investing in the technology. 

The report identifies four key obstacles to the adoption of TEC: financial pressures, workforce challenges, integration of health and social care, and digital switchover. 

Two-thirds of councils who responded to the survey either do not use TEC at all or only rarely to support children and their families. Some 79% of councils have no plans to jointly commission TEC and two-thirds predict challenges in integrating TEC across health and social care. 

One big issue here is that half of councils reported sizeable gaps in knowledge and understanding of TEC, with ‘almost no understanding’ among the workforce about how to speak confidently to service users about the benefits TEC can bring. Just 45% of councils either were working to raise awareness of such benefits or firm plans to do so, while just 35% were working to (or planned to) tackle barriers to using such technology, such as in remedying skills gaps in the workforce. 

Another key concern is that the target to achieve fully digital migration by 2025 has also adversely affected the take-up of services and the cost of TEC. 

The report outlines ways to tackle these various challenges and take advantage of the opportunities TEC can offer. These include defining outcomes to be achieved, the building of a strong case for investment, and ways of identifying and encouraging enablers for success. What’s more, the report outlines commissioners’ priority areas and aspirations related to TEC over the next year. Alyson Scurfield, CEO of TSA, says: ‘This report marks the culmination of a long-held ambition to capture the current state of play around technology enabled care and its potential to support a wider range of people. As the public sector grapples with rising demand and stretched resources, it’s clear that TEC services have a pivotal role to play. 

‘Our joint report with PA underlines the degree to which TEC is now seen as integral to meeting health and care needs and the desire to do more.’ 

Robert Turnbull, care technology expert at PA Consulting, adds: ‘Social care is in crisis and councils are rightly turning to care technology as one means to support its prevention agenda. This is driving a huge surge in momentum surrounding care technology within social care. This is more than just a passing trend; it is a transformative wave poised to revolutionise how we deliver health and care. There is a huge potential to do more for the communities that would benefit from care technology, so it is promising to see councils making plans to increase their use of care technology within the next year. 

‘Over the last 10 years our Argenti care technology partnership has developed innovative technology-enabled services and solutions to help people live in the place they call home for as long as possible, but this needs to be coupled with the right skills, knowledge and awareness.’ 

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