How do we set about enthusing older people and those with additional care needs about the benefits of technology in their homes? Great engagement between housing and care staff and their client helps, while a pandemic also has the potential to create a disruptive environment to spur housing providers to try some different approaches to the problem.
Just over a year ago, in a pre-coronavirus, less digitally-active world, we launched the Technology Enabled Care in Housing (TECH) charter in Scotland. The charter has been designed to seek commitment from Scottish housing providers and local authorities’ housing departments to develop and support the capability of their tenants and extra-care customers to optimise the use of technology in their homes and in doing so, be able to live independently at home for longer. With a reach to over 500,000 homes managed by these landlords, the potential to introduce life-changing and innovative technological developments is huge.
There are seven pledges at the heart of the charter. These have a strong focus on engaging customers in the design of TEC-enabled services, encourage partnership working and the sharing of ideas, and include a willingness to review and redesign services to support TEC solutions for customers.
Organisations keen to sign the charter need to select at least three of these and demonstrate either their intent to work towards an achievement, show that they are already working towards such an achievement, or evidence their success within that pledge area and be willing to support others.
Let’s look at each in turn.
Opportunity and solution focused
Housing providers need to define the issues they face in meeting customer needs and understand the opportunities TEC can bring. They need to be aware of which TEC options are simple and easy to implement and recognise that other options will need further development and testing. Senior leaders need to listen and learn from the experiences of their customers as well as other organisations who have addressed similar issues.
Engaging with customers
As more customers are living longer and often in poor health, housing providers need to maximise the benefits of TEC solutions by taking account of their needs and putting them, their families and/or carers at the heart of the co-design, testing and review of customised services.
Working in partnership
This is about sharing ideas with others and working collaboratively within their own organisations, as well as the wider housing sector, allied professions, universities and other research institutions.
Housing staff need to work in partnership with customers and others, including health and social care colleagues (commissioners and providers) to investigate the use of preventative analytics to achieve the greatest impact for vulnerable people. They would then use the data generated to help with strategic planning and the management of assets and services, while taking account of ethical and data privacy issues.
Using technology as a key element of service redesign, business would provide preventative and supportive TEC solutions for existing and future customers, in turn producing better outcomes for individuals and their families and/or carers.
Supporting the workforce
Helping tenants and customers is one aspect; supporting staff to enable them to adapt to the changes brought about by TEC is equally important. Housing organisations should provide staff with opportunities to increase their knowledge of the role of TEC and digital healthcare, and use the insights of front-line staff to influence service redesigns.
Getting the infrastructure right
Obtaining the best advice and support to enable good decision-making when investing in any technological infrastructure or equipment used for delivering TEC solutions is critical to any housing business. This includes being aware of the opportunities provided by the analogue-to-digital switch over.
Since the launch of the charter and working around a pandemic that removed the opportunity to meet senior leaders and volunteers, nearly 40 housing providers and local authorities have already signed the charter. Every six weeks, key TEC leads from each organisation meet to share good practice and recent developments, focusing on the key pledges they are working towards and supporting each other with practical outcomes and opportunities.
To those housing professionals in Scotland who have not yet signed the charter, I urge you to consider the benefits now and join the growing network. To those people elsewhere in the UK and the wider world, we’d like to give you a chance to share your experiences and help more people in Scotland live independently at home for longer, with the best TECH support possible.
Graeme Hamilton is the engagement officer for the Technology Enabled Care in Housing (TECH) programme in Scotland.