A UK charity has called for the creation of enablement panels that would empower vulnerable people to adopt, use and improve assistive technologies.
Doteveryone, the responsible technology charity founded by Baroness Martha Lane-Fox, has recommended that NHSX fund the enablement panels, which would be run by disabled people, those in care and their families, to inform how new technology can be used in an effective way.
The organisation interviewed more than 100 care-givers and patients across the country to see how they thought technology to help the UK’s struggling social care system.
Its report, Better Care in the Age of Automation, found that many benefits claimants are reluctant to adopt new technologies because they fear any change in their lives could jeopardise vital support packages.
Research participants told the charity that benefits assessors were always looking for an excuse to cut funding; that trying to recover, to adapt or to learn new skills would cause support services to be taken away.
Older and disabled people feel excluded from an ableist and ageist design community, the research found, and complain of unsuitable and unappealing products that don’t take into account their own goals, ideas and experiences.
Participants said they wanted to “flip the script”; challenging a culture of hostility, suspicion and condescension that prevented them using technology.
“They wanted to experiment, to share their own ingenuity and ideas in using and adapting technology to their needs and to celebrate ways technology could be part of improved access to the economy and community,” the report said.
“To vulnerable people, disruption — in fact any change at all — can be frightening, even life threatening. People must feel empowered to engage with and shape how technology is used within a sustainable social care system.”
Doteveryone has proposed a series of enablement panels that would concentrate on the capacities and goals of the person being supported, their family, their community, and their support team.
Over the course of several months, the panels should listen, reflect, and explore how new technologies and services can help people achieve their goals and improve access to community and the economy.
“These panels will need to be optional and to be carefully separated from benefits assessments, so that building confidence and capacity is not punished by cuts to support in the short term,” Doteveryone said.
“The project should include a training and support scheme that builds a cohort of disabled, ill, older and caring designers.
“Using an asset-based and goal-oriented approach, panels should seek to support users over a period of months to explore how tech can help them achieve their own ambitions, with resources for staff, family and community.”
Doteveryone has also recommended the creation of the Royal College of Carers to professionalise the social care workforce to use technologies on the frontline.