Technology Enabled Care in Housing – Covid-19 and beyond
By Geraldine Begg, Technology Enabled Care in Housing (TECH) Programme Co-ordinator.
It feels like a lifetime ago since the CIH Housing Festival in March when six more housing providers signed up to the TECH Charter and Jehan Weerasinghe and I spoke of the benefits of TEC to a packed room of housing professionals. Little did we know just how much everyone’s reliance on technology would escalate!
Where would we be without video calls keeping us in touch with our loved ones, NHS inform and the government websites sharing essential information, and good old telephone calls to check tenants are safe and well. All of these are various forms of technology enabled care i.e. technology being used as an enabler to support tenants’ health, independence and wellbeing.
Over the last few months, housing providers have shared countless stories of how they have adapted practice using technology to support their tenants, for example:
using WhatsApp, Facebook, or MS Teams to keep in touch with tenants
providing SIM cards to help people get back online, when the places they would usually go to use Wi-Fi or internet services for free are closed
sharing information about wellbeing apps with tenants and extending mental wellbeing telephone services, originally commissioned to support staff, to tenants
using functionality within warden call systems that hadn’t been used before that enabled new ways of working like making off-site wellbeing calls to tenants, remotely opening main doors, if required, and carrying out basic system resets to enable faster resolution of issues and prevent the need for contractors to attend on site
supporting tenants to use Near Me to enable remote consultations by video call with health professionals
rolling out services to tenants who would not normally receive them such as the initiative by Wheatley Group to provided Okay each day units to vulnerable people living in mainstream housing.
The list goes on.
But what next…?
Many have been capturing information about which tenants have access to the internet and which platforms they are most confident in using to help identify effective and efficient ways to keep people in touch, informed and involved. And, yes, there are many challenges to this – but, thankfully, digital inclusion programmes, including the new Connecting Scotland programme are helping to overcome some of these.
Some plan to roll-out internet programmes at greater pace, while others are now revisiting their position on providing internet connectivity as the fourth utility. Surveying tenants’ attitudes to understand opinion on whether it should be incorporated into rent would potentially provide the mandate needed to proceed.
Adopting sensor technology, the like of which organisations like Loreburn Housing Association, Albyn Housing Society and Fife Council have introduced may be more appealing now. Because the sensors enable remote monitoring of vulnerable people and their properties, providing real time data, it enables more timely, targeted interventions which is vital when standard visits aren’t possible and more efficient when they are.
Over the summer, our TECH Community meetups will be restarting. These meet ups (though virtual for the foreseeable future) will be exploring many of these areas of practice. The TECH Community provides an opportunity for registered and council social landlords, large and small, rural and urban, to come together to share experiences, challenges and ideas on how to redesign and create services that include the use of technology to support tenants’ health and wellbeing.