About 2,000 elderly or vulnerable residents will benefit from an initiative by KCC to provide them with a unique videophone system.
The council has commissioned assistive care technology provider Alcove to roll out digital support packages across the county, in one of the country’s largest programmes to support adults during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The £1.5million contract means that vulnerable and digitally disadvantaged elderly residents and those with a learning disability will be able to receive virtual video care and health consultations, as well as video contact with friends and family while minimising the infection risk to other residents and care staff.
The technology, in the form of a “one touch” secure tablet-type device, is being delivered and set up remotely by Alcove and health and care transformation consultancy Rethink Partners. It enables video-calling to an individual’s support network, which allows KCC support staff to monitor care needs, ensure that clients are safe, and enables residents to conduct online activities such as ordering essential supplies and stay video connected with their loved ones.
Clair Bell, Kent County Council’s Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care & Public Health, said: “This assistive technology will give some of our most vulnerable residents greater independence and help care staff to support them at this very challenging time.
“The video phone is delivered direct to the person’s home, ready to go, straight out of the box. It enables carers to monitor care needs and check on the safety and wellbeing of their clients, who themselves are able to utilise the equipment for a variety of online activities such as ordering shopping and prescriptions, as well as connecting with their family and friends by video call.
“The system is proving to be particularly effective during the Covid-19 pandemic, reducing the need for face-to-face contact and limiting hands-on care to just essential tasks.
“I am delighted that KCC is investing in this technology which will bring many benefits to both the care workforce and those we support to live independently at home.”
She said that before the pandemic, KCC was already undertaking a review of its long-term digital assistive technology strategy in anticipation of contracts ending in 2021 and the national digital switchover programme. However, this rapid deployment was a clear and urgent response to COVID-19 and will also influence the council’s longer-term planning.
Among those already benefiting from the Video Carephone is 75-year-old Robert Greenfield, of Gravesend. He was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis 20 years ago and ran a holiday business before retiring 11 years ago.
Mr Greenfield said he found set-up really easy and was keen to get it working. He initially thought that he would only use it to speak to his care agency, Westminster Homecare. However, he says that the unexpected benefit is that he can link in with his friends and family.
He said: “I love the sociability that the Video Carephone gives me. I have not been able to see my grandkids due to the coronavirus or meet up with my chums so it has helped me to stay in touch with everyone.
“The best part is that I don’t need log-ons or codes to be able to see or speak to people. I also hope I can receive my private physio sessions on the Carephone and I like the idea that it can prompt me to move every hour to prevent me getting sores and to keep doing my exercises.”
Robert is the editor of MS magazine and is looking forward to writing about his Video Carephone in the next edition.
Kent has seen more than 7,600 confirmed cases of COVID-19, making it one of the hardest-hit communities in the South East.
Founder and CEO of Alcove, Hellen Bowey, said: “Local authorities across the country have had to navigate an unprecedented demand for services and juggle this with fewer support staff. Restrictions on movement and a reduction in care workers have left the most vulnerable people in our communities scared, alone and digitally isolated. With lockdown set to continue for many of the older people in our communities, it’s important that providers take steps to ensure their needs continue to be met.”
“Not only does the implementation of this technology ensure that Kent county is well placed to mitigate the risk of COVID-19, it also ensures that local care provision is future proofed for the national digital switchover programme which comes into effect in 2023.
“Current telecare technologies in this sector lack video, are outdated, send calls to only one number and are prone to failing due to the digital switchover – Alcove’s Integrated Caretech Digital Ecosystem connects carers and the cared-for seamlessly with video and Alexa, and uses data to monitor behaviour and create life changing outcomes,” she added.
Residents who feel that a carephone would help a relative or a friend who either receives council care and support package or is known to KCC’s Adult Social Care and Health service, can email email@example.com to find out more.