Tech is helping vulnerable residents stay independent

As first published by 24Housing on 16th December 2019

Assistive technology is revolutionising the way housing associations operate and interact with their elderly residents, helping them live at home for longer.

Housing associations are increasingly using new ways to ensure the safety and wellbeing of vulnerable residents. This includes using digital devices like sensors to monitor for danger signs, for example, where a resident has not opened the fridge or left their home or a room for a long period. Residents also have more ways to summon for help like wearable call buttons and voice-control devices and algorithms can predict who is likely to fall before they fall. All of this can help elderly residents stay independent and lead fulfilling lives at home for longer.

There are benefits for housing associations using this technology, too, such as improved efficiency as they receive and process more information on resident wellbeing, earlier prompts to intervene and safeguard residents, and improved resources for sharing data and collaborating with other care, health, and housing professionals. However, the use of technology in this area is not without challenge.

Residents who are older and/or in need of care may be reluctant to use automated assistance or may struggle to understand it. They may fear over-surveillance and prefer a “human face”. As such, it is important for housing associations to identify the limits of IT, to offer incentives to residents to use it, and ensure they allocate responsibility for acting on the data they generate and keep it safe from abuse and theft.

Housing associations need to ensure they have robust contracts in place with IT supplier and software developers from the start of their IT project, as they are better placed to negotiate at the outset rather than midway through a project when they have committed fees and are under pressure to complete. For efficient negotiation on complex projects, it may be best to start by agreeing heads of terms.

Usual procurement rules apply to IT, although some associations have improved purchasing power by collaborative procurement, through either consortia or frameworks – for example CCS. But housing associations may prefer to tailor their own contract, especially for bespoke development projects. If so, housing associations need to define whether the supplier provides existing or new software and consider if the housing association gets ownership of any bespoke software. It may be preferable for the supplier to own it and commit support, and to restrict on-selling, or recognise the housing association’s contribution to development through royalty payments.

In all cases, the contract must specify the functional and other requirements of the housing association. They must include a project plan and process to test and accept or reject the software and provision for maintenance and support to specified service levels within target-resolution times.

For more information please contact Michelle Mullen, Partner and technology specialist in our Banking, Governance and Corporate team.

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