Project improves digital skills for thousands in social care Wednesday, July 4, 2012 - 17:21
75,000 service users and over 80,000 carers and staff in adult social care now have better access to digital technology, due to the Get Connected investment project which has had significantly positive outcomes for all involved. This is the headline finding of a study published by NIACE and the Institute for Employment Studies (IES) into the impact of Get Connected; a £12 million initiative to improve access and use of digital technology in adult social care funded by the Department of Health and managed by the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE).
Get Connected funding, awarded between January 2012 - July 2011, has enabled registered care providers and independent sector organisations to access digital technology more effectively in order to enhance the communication, learning and training opportunities for their service users, carers, visitors and staff. The NIACE and IES study into the impact of the programme revealed the following outcomes:
- The funding has made an important contribution to the digital inclusion of many service users and staff, with considerable positive outcomes, including the improvement of the service provided to clients. Prior to involvement in the programme, many sites had little or no access to technology, with use often restricted to administrative purposes.
- In residential care settings, service users are better equipped to communicate with ‘the outside world' and with friends and families, and are using their new skills to research hobbies, interests and shopping opportunities online. Access to online information, forums and services has also supported service users to play a more active role in the management of their own care.
- In the domiciliary and community care sector there have been some significant developments in using the technology to enable more independent decision-making and lifestyles. Quality of service has also improved since staff have easier access to information and training online.
- Attitudes towards technology are beginning to change among both service users and staff. The technology has resulted in better communication and more social interaction among service users and also between service users and staff, which in turn has positively impacted the standard of care provided.
Get Connected has led to better access to computer equipment and software - people are now seeing the benefits and staff can update their learning more easily. It would be great if these improved levels of access to technology could be offered and sustained in every adult social care service, so that everyone uses it as a matter of routine.
One Matron involved in the study said:
"I can absolutely 100 per cent say that it does make an improvement to quality of life. It doesn't matter how kind you are, how well you wash and dress them, how lovely the food is, for the vast majority of them it's the social aspect of their stay which impacts on their quality of life. Anything we can do to add to that, which is basically what this has done, is fantastic."
Dr Fiona Aldridge, NIACE's Head of Workplace Learning, said:
"As well as identifying a range of emerging benefits for both carers and service users, the evaluation has also highlighted a number of factors that should be addressed in order to ensure that the value of this and any future investment in digital technologies is optimised. Of particular importance is the critical role of care staff in supporting service users to get the most out of new technologies. It is therefore essential to ensure that staff receive the appropriate training and support to fulfil this role effectively."
SCIE's Chief Executive, Andrea Sutcliffe, said:
"SCIE has been delighted to be involved in Get Connected, which this research has shown has really made a difference in the use of technology in social care. The benefits of personalisation are more likely to be realised if staff and people who use services have good access to technology to communicate, to find information and to enjoy leisure activities. Get Connected has led to better access to computer equipment and software - people are now seeing the benefits and staff can update their learning more easily. It would be great if these improved levels of access to technology could be offered and sustained in every adult social care service, so that everyone uses it as a matter of routine."
For many care providers, providing access to technology for their service users and all staff has been a completely new venture and the need for guidance and support on the potential uses of technology in adult social care has been identified. As a contribution to meeting this need, a series of case studies developed during the evaluation, highlighting what has been done and the lessons learned, will be published on the SCIE website.