How can emerging technologies support and improve social care in the UK?

15 July 2019


Reported by Katie Cohen, Research Assistant, Centre for Science and Policy

Participants from a CSaP Policy Workshop held earlier this year on 'emerging technologies for social care' reconvened at our Annual Conference on 26 June to discuss the opportunities and challenges of scaling technologies to support and improve social care in the UK.

Chaired by George MacGinnis, UKRI Healthy Ageing Challenge Director, the panel explored the primary goals of deploying innovative technologies to improve social care in the UK, the range of technologies emerging in the sector, a case study of a platform already rapidly gaining national traction and challenges to adoption spread. Christina Cornwell expressed Nesta's dedication to people-powered, accessible, ethical and data-driven technologies for social care. Surveying various types of assistive technologies as well as technologies used to support care, Christina emphasized the importance of taking advantage of these tools while ensuring they are user-friendly, data protected, and ethically sound.

Ben Maruthappu explained how his time as a doctor enlightened him to the severe supply-demand issues in the care sector. As a result, he started a company called Cera--creating a platform that matches carers to users. Minimising administrative workload and improving risk prediction capabilities, Cera is a rapidly expanding care provider service with an impressive record of carer compensation, staff retention, response rate and corporate partnerships.

Despite the efforts of companies like Cera, Malte Gerhold (Care Quality Commission) highlighted the immense challenges for adoption spread within the social care sector. Due to inequalities, privacy and ethics issues, procurement shortfalls, workforce turnover and skills, lack of technological coproduction and research and innovation capabilities, useful technologies and platforms generally struggle to scale up in social care in the UK.

Ben turned the audience's attention to analogous examples in the pharmaceutical industry--drug trials have long been accepted as necessary risk-taking to achieve better outcomes, so why does social care struggle to adopt similar practices? Social care is unique in that it inherently involves vulnerable populations, and so risks are naturally heightened and pose greater ethical dilemmas.

Despite the many barriers to utilising technologies for social care as they have been for healthcare, regulators, providers, technologists and users are moving towards greater collaboration in working to find solutions. Voice assistance, smart homes, memory aids, robotics and platforms are emerging to address some of the sector's most pressing concerns. Key questions for the future centre on access and merging the fragmented provision and oversight of the sector.

  • 26 June 2019, 9:30am

    CSaP Annual Conference 2019

    CSaP's Annual Conference will bring together members of our network from government, academia and elsewhere to discuss some of the policy challenges we have worked on over the past year.