Kevin Alderson, Public Sector Policy Director at Tunstall Healthcare, discusses how trends in learning disability services are shaping our thinking about technology as an enabler.

There are around 1.5 million people with a learning disability in the UK. The combined NHS and local authority expenditure for children and adults with learning disabilities has been the fastest growing budget in social care. While the industry has moved away from institutionalised care, some people with learning disabilities face frustration as they strive to prove their ability to live independently. Many people with a learning disability live with family carers who have to make significant adjustments to their own lives. While it is a positive outcome that people are living longer, budgets and resources are not growing at the same pace.

Technology enabled care services

Those who provide support for people with learning disabilities are potentially not aware of the technology available to them. There is a significant gap between the technology that has been developed and a lack of understanding in how to put the two together. We acknowledge that there are enthusiasts who share an interest in technology enabled care services, and have applied it to support people with learning disabilities, but why isn’t this more common? On one side we have the means to deliver personalised technology enabled care services, while on the other we have carers who are providing support, but who don’t always have awareness of the additional options available to them. That is why we provide a service based on our knowledge and expertise that offers a gateway for people who are not familiar with technology to access valuable information and services to enhance care and support for people with learning disabilities.

The personalisation journey

There is an ongoing drive for personalisation across social care, putting people in control of their own lives. Learning disability services deliver a strong message of individuality, and they are leading the move to meaningful personalisation. We have aligned our provisions with this ‘personalisation journey’ to match industry requirements and aid adoption. We are dedicated to creating services that enable independent living, which is why we have taken what we know and love and developed it into a more applicable service that everyone can access and relate to. To determine the true benefits of implementing technology enabled care services, like telehealthcare, within a learning disabilities context, we are conducting projects with two organisations, Real Life Options and Dimensions

Real Life Options

Real Life Options, for example, is a national organisation dedicated to providing support to people with learning disabilities. Their ToRCH (Transformation of Residential Care Homes) project is assessing how taking a truly person-centred approach to care and support can improve the lives of people with learning disabilities, and support the sustainability of long-term service delivery.  You can read more about their experience in this blog:  From telecare to holistic support. We always strive to complement the ongoing work of our customers to ensure continuity and efficiency for people who use our services, and early results from the project suggest positive outcomes following the inclusion of technology enabled care services.

A better quality of life

We are continuing to shape our thinking based on the shifting trends within learning disabilities services to ensure we are meeting the needs of people with complex conditions. By creating a pathway that matches the emerging industry standard, we can promote independent living while reducing the strain on social care resources. This delivers a better quality of life for people with a learning disability and their family and carers – the key thing that we are all striving for!

Read more about how technology can support people with learning disabilities to live more independently.