Technology is seen as vital to a sustainable future of social care, but evidence suggests that these digital technology (DT) projects are rarely joined up and require increased collaboration with individuals, their families and carers.

Older Asian woman on computer

Project aim

The aim of this project is to map, explore and test the implementation of digital technologies that contribute to social well-being for adults living in the community who use adult social care services.  

Initial background research suggests that there is primarily an emphasis on health orientated technologies and how they are being used to monitor health (e.g. telecare) and reduce the need for face-to-face input. There has been less research and limited evidence on how using DTs addresses issues of social wellbeing.

This project aims to address this gap. Additionally, within adult social care there is evidence that the homecare sector is not as well served as the care homes sector.  Therefore, this project will be focused on older adults who are receiving social care but living in the community. Finally, the decentralised and ‘mixed economy’ of social care (e.g. most of the care being provided by the private sector, with significant self-pay for care) may create further challenges for implementation and evaluation of digital technologies.

How this research will be carried out

This project consists of three stages. Firstly, the research team will carry out a scoping exercise of existing evidence and platforms relating to digital technology that focuses on social well-being outcomes for older people who are receiving social care but living independently, and their carers.

Secondly, they will explore perceptions about the value and adoption of digital tech from the perspective of service users and their carers predominantly, but also care providers. Relevant factors, such as the ethics of using this type of technology, digital exclusion and poverty etc. will be investigated within this work. This will involve using a mixed-methods approach. Survey data, focus groups and qualitative interviews will be carried out with a sample from our target populations.

Finally, informed by the first and second stages they will undertake an assessment of digital communication technologies which aims to improve social care well-being for older people, to develop a recommendation guideline for the evaluation and implementation of these interventions.

How patients and the public are involved in this work?

A lived experience advisory group for this project will give advice throughout all stages of the research. The research team will also draw on the expertise of members of the University of Hertfordshire Public Involvement in Research Group (PIRG) which sits in the Centre for Research in Public Health and Community Care (CRIPACC). They provide a reference group to ensure that the research within the School is relevant to service users, carers and the general public. PiRG members are also involved in co-production research. Engagement groups are involved in the project and the ARC National Priority Programme in Social Care and Social Work has strong and diverse PPIE/service user and carer involvement and engagement. This involvement is costed and participation will be vital to the success of this study.

Potential benefits of the research

This study will offer important insights into how we identify the best digital technology options and interventions in this field, including, crucially, sustainability in the use of these technologies.

The project was adopted in June 2022. It is funded by the NHR ARC Priority Network on Social care and Social Work.