Learning disability charity promotes person-centred assistive technology
Adults with learning disabilities are often neglected from key conversations about how they want to live their lives. However, a person-centred approach to care will reframe and change this approach.
Learning disability charity Hft is championing this person-centred support approach through Personalised Technology (PT) – assistive technology that is tailored to an individual’s needs. The charity aims to give adults with learning disabilities greater control over their lives, creating a pivotal digital solution for the future of national social care planning and policy.
“In the UK we have a model of care which is ‘just in case’ – it’s focused more on hours than on outcomes,” explains Vincent Scaife, Personalised Technology Co-ordinator at Hft.
“If there’s an issue, the local authority often throws hours at it. But we have to do things differently. We have to change the model of care within social care, and technology can help to enable us to do that.
“PT gives us the tools, space and control to free up our number one resource – our care and support colleagues – to spend more quality time with the people we support.”
The Care Quality Commission (CQC) recognises person-centred care as beneficial for people with learning disabilities; it shapes the care and support needed by an individual, listening to their likes and preferences.
The CQC is already encouraging the sector to use technology in a person-centred way to support greater dignity and increased health and well-being in care. In 2022 alone, technology has featured in six different influential pieces of legislative proposals including the Health and Care Act 2022 and the People at the Heart of Care whitepaper.
However, PT is not yet without its barriers; resistance, lack of knowledge around different technologies, perceived complexity and cost challenges are all ongoing barriers to the implementation of person-centred assistive technology.
Albeit, Vincent Scaife welcomes a conversation around these challenges. He says: “We actually love it when people come to us with problems we’ve not yet been able to solve, because it means we can go into research and development on that issue.”
Hft’s focus on training staff and strengthening their experience of working within services enables the charity to understand the day-to-day challenges people with learning disabilities face. In turn, it is well-placed to help identify potential opportunities for bringing in technologies as well as addressing existing issues.
This person-centred training is beneficial to overcoming the aforementioned barriers – strengthening independence, choice and control, communication, risk management, and health and well-being.
Daisy Blacklock, Internal Communications Officer at Hft, recently attended one of Hft’s PT training sessions. “During the training, we were asked: What piece of technology could you not live without? This exercise instantly hammered home that technology doesn’t have to be complicated or high-tech to make a difference in someone’s life,” she explains.
Hft uses a variety of technologies to better the lives of the people they support and assist with everyday tasks.
Personalised Technology Co-ordinator, Valerie Healy, says: “I’m an avid tea drinker, so I think it’s such a basic thing, isn’t it, being able to ask for a cup of tea? No wonder people get frustrated when they’re unable to do so, so these simple solutions can really make the difference.”
Hft’s use of ‘talking tiles’ enable people who are non-verbal to communicate their needs through recorded speech with minimal effort. These tiles include an option which, when pressed, says: ‘I would like a cup of tea’.
There are also more mainstream options such as the one-cup kettle that gives people the independence of being able to easily and safely make a cup of tea or coffee themselves by removing the need to lift and pour a kettle of boiling water.
Vincent Scaife concludes: “The bottom line is, we want to make sure technology meets the needs of the individual, not vice-versa. It’s about getting people to think differently when it comes to delivering care and support.”
Hft is now offering a number of training courses from bespoke workshops to accredited qualifications, all using practical examples and real-life case studies to raise awareness and better education around the implementation of personalised technology. You can find out more about these training courses and PT at Hft on their website.
Notes to editors
Hft is a national charity that creatively supports more than 2,200 adults with learning disabilities across England and Wales to live the best life possible. Services range from residential care to supporting people to live independently in their own homes – from a few hours a week to 24 hours a day. Hft also helps people with learning disabilities to take part in daily activities, make friends and develop relationships and to find work.
Established in 1962, Hft is funded in two ways: through local authorities, who fund vital support services, but also through donors, supporters and volunteers who enable us to find new ways to help more people to thrive rather than just get by.
For more information about Hft please visit www.hft.org.uk