It’s amazing how sometimes in life we can accomplish things we never thought possible, just by being up for the challenge.
After a long career spent working in social services, health and housing, with a focus on leisure and community services too, for the last few months I’ve had the opportunity to both retain my professional passions, but also spend some time looking at what I’d like to achieve personally.
As a result, I recently found myself in the saddle ready to begin the 320 mile London to Paris bike ride. Of course, a lot of my motivation was gained from raising money for Parkinson’s but it was also about setting myself a challenge. I have never previously done any serious cycling, so sitting on my bike amongst the sea of others at Blackheath as we were about to set off was daunting as well as exciting. The route spans four days, and includes a ferry crossing, river valleys, French market squares, historic war locations and some stunning countryside, before concluding at the Eiffel Tower.
It was (forgive the pun) a real change of gear from a few days earlier when I’d taken part in an ADASS Housing Policy Network meeting in York about how we can incorporate technology into housing strategies to help us manage demand and improve the way we deliver not just housing but health and social care as well. However, as I pedalled through the next few days, I had time to reflect on our discussions, and how both personally and professionally, it’s impossible to reach a goal, however distant it may feel at times, if you don’t even try.
I am a big believer that technology, used in an individualised and integrated way, can make people’s lives better. In my work in social care at Sunderland City Council and North Yorkshire County Council I saw for myself time and again how increasing the use of telecare helped people to remain in their own homes, maintained their independence and dignity and brought peace of mind to their families.
I particularly recall from when I spent an evening with the telecare responder service in Sunderland how appreciative people were because of the massive difference the technology was making to their quality life.
Of course we can’t work miracles for everyone overnight, but we can begin to look at how we can do things differently in a logical and committed way. There are plenty of examples out there of how local authorities and providers have incorporated telecare into their delivery models and the benefits this has brought, both financially and in terms of outcomes.
More integrated provision, underpinned by technology, has to become part of the new reality for commissioners; current methods of service delivery are simply unsustainable. Talking to Directors of social services my experience is that one of the main barriers to including more technology in their plans is that they are unsure of what’s available, how it works and where to start. We don’t know what we don’t know. Discussing further how telecare can support people in their own homes and in supported housing environments, and how it can help to tackle delayed transfers of care and the demand for domiciliary care and they become interested and excited.
We all need to step up to the plate and examine not just the quick wins technology can offer, but how we can deliver on the principles of Care Act by embedding it as a core element of integrated support. I’m the first to admit that this might involve some uphill climbs but the view from the top will be worth it.