Technology in Social Care and Support Services

Technology in Social Care and Support Services


A policy paper from the Person-centred Technology Membership Forum of EASPD

This paper refects on the impact of the ongoing digital transformation process in society on organisations providing social care and support services to people with disabilities and older people. It does so by recognising the empowering role of technology for persons with disabilities or functional difculties. A major challenge is to understand what the support services of the future could look like and what diferent stakeholders can do to assure that the transformation process is increasingly an opportunity for service users and providers and not a pitfall.

The digital revolution must not be seen as an isolated phenomenon or trend. Its challenges interact with the challenges caused by other trends in society, such as demographic and social-economic trends, as well as the changing perception of disability, which must be analysed as well, to get the picture right of what, as a sector, we can expect or aim for.

The way services are provided to people with disabilities has been undergoing substantial change over the past decades. Many services are moving towards the human rights-based approach supported by the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. This fundamental change brings to the core of service provision the needs and preferences of each individual and their self-determination. At the same time, the changes in the design and delivery of services are clearly yet to be fully accomplished, at policy and at practical level. This represents a challenge for the service provision of tomorrow as well as for policy makers at EU and national level. Important policy frameworks such as that provided by the UN Convention, by the European Disability Rights Strategy 2021-2030 and by the EU Digital Agenda, require further action at national and local level, typically the level at which support services operate.

Technological progress impacts in diferent ways on social care and support providing organisations. A distinction can be made between assistive technologies empowering the individual and which can boost their independence, and person-centred technologies allowing organisations and their staf to provide better services. The use of both technologies has to be fostered by using appropriate strategies for their adoption that take into account a wide range of factors and quality indicators such as interoperability, accessibility, usability, compatibility, cost-benefts, quality of life, quality of work, user acceptance or abandonment, etc.

Combining the trends in technological development, wider societal trends and the opportunities provided by technology, it is possible to imagine what the services of the future ideally should look like: personcentred, personalised, fexible, adaptive and resilient, digitally connected, integrated and interconnected, hybrid and co-produced.

To steer this process in the right direction and to create the services of the future that are respectful for the rights of the individual, empowering,
efective and efcient, whilst valuing the role of staf, diferent barriers have to be overcome, at societal, community and personal level. This requires a holistic approach and a vision shared by all stakeholders that move in the same direction, although with diferent roles and responsibilities. Key-players in this process are policymakers, commissioners of services and care providers themselves. To help each stakeholder to understand its possible contribution to the development of the services of the future, recommendations are formulated and included in the paper.

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