Monitor to empower good care and eliminate bad

Published on in Alcove Business, News, Technology section

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I’m sure you’re just as sickened as us about the continued headlines of abuse in the UK care system. Today's titles of “Ill fed, unwashed, abandoned… and they call it care,” “Care workers cover up neglect,” are deeply sad and truly terrifying. How, in this information age, can this abuse still go on? Why, when you handle cash in any job, will you have a camera monitoring every transaction, yet when you handle society’s most precious assets, vulnerable human beings, are you largely left unmonitored and to your own devices.

Care visits are commissioned in time slots – 15minute visits being the minimum length of visit commissioned in the public sector. In most instances, there will either be no monitoring of the commissioned visit or councils will use an electronic call monitoring system, whereby a care worker is meant to use the landline phone in the house they are visiting to dial an 0800 number when they arrive and when they leave. As you might imagine, compliance with these type of systems is low; the system is open to abuse; and there is usually no emergency system set up if carers are late or do not show up. In the last 3 years, councils have reported over 3m cases where the carer was late (and you can bet there’s loads more that go unreported). In the last year alone, there were 500,000 instances where the carer did not show up at all. Imagine waiting for your carer in the morning - unable to get up, use the bathroom or feed yourself. Trapped in your bed with no idea if and when someone will come to help you. Its abuse of the highest order, totally unacceptable and entirely avoidable.

At Alcove, we have harnessed the power of the Internet of Things to build a visitor monitoring solution to help tackle this type of abuse and create a better care system for carers and the cared for. It’s incredibly simple and doesn’t involve giving carers expensive smartphones. Carers are instead given simple plastic key fobs or ID cards which they use to tap in and tap out of a service users’ home on a small white box, usually placed by the front door. This produces a tamperproof digital record of exactly who visited when and for how long. On top of that, our bespoke alerting engine sends text message alerts if carers are late or do not attend. These can be sent to up to 3 people – so they might go to the care provider or local authority but can also go to family members or friends. These real time notifications ensure people are never left abandoned or neglected.

Funding cuts can not be used as an excuse not to deploy simple, smart systems like this – not only are they extremely cheap (less than £10 per month) – but in the long run they save providers money by producing an evidence base for charging. You only pay for the care that is delivered – if your 30 minute visits are actually only 15 minute visits, you have the evidence to support reducing payments. They very quickly pay for themselves.

We must of course be careful not to vilify a whole industry, and remember that most carers are exactly that – caring people who do the best, often in extremely difficult circumstances, for those they care for. No payment for travelling time, means carers often effectively work for below the minimum wage. Caring is not a glamorous job and not considered a career of choice for most of us, partly because of the bad reputation that certain bad apples give it. A simple monitoring solution can not only identify and eliminate bad performance, and weed out the bad apples, but it can help to recognise and reward good performance. We want to empower good carers to do great work untainted by the fakers, cheaters and abusers. We can use technology for good to do this. Find out about the Alcove visitor card and our other solutions by contacting us at hello@youralcove.com.