‘Use of AI and Alexa in social care just the tip of the iceberg’

Artificial intelligence and voice technologies are some of the “really exciting” innovations in social care, a gathering of providers in the sector has heard.

Social care minister Helen Whately said using devices like the voice-controlled virtual assistant Alexa was “just the tip of the iceberg” and said better use of technology could mean staff spending less time on paperwork.

She said half of care providers currently do not use digital records.

She told the Care England conference: “I spoke to several of you last night about some of the really exciting things that are going on with technology and innovations in our social care sector, whether that’s from the potential of AI or the opportunities to make practical use of Amazon Alexa – just a couple of examples I spoke to people about last night.

“I know that’s just the tip of the iceberg.”

The minister added that she wanted to “drive greater adoption of technology so that care staff can spend less time on paperwork” and have the “right information at their fingertips when they come on shift”.

She said: “More than 50% of care providers now have digital social care records, that’s up from 45% last year, but of course that’s still 50% who don’t have digital care records, so that needs to go further.”

The Government has promised to publish a plan for adult social care system reform in the spring, with no date yet given.

The minister said this will set out “reforms to the workforce, reforms on technology and innovation and data”.

She said the Government’s “vision” set out in its People at the Heart of Care policy paper published in December 2021 is “not going to be realised overnight, but we are taking steadily the steps forward to get there together with you”.

Kirsty Matthews, chief executive of learning disability charity Hft which took part in the Care England conference, said technology could help free up staff when the workforce was stretched.

She gave examples, including home monitoring systems which mean staff can check in with a supported person remotely, and devices that enable independence when cooking such as induction hobs and one-cup kettles.

She said: “Technology and AI can make a huge difference to adults with a learning disability, building independence and helping providers make the best use of a stretched workforce.

“At Hft, we recognise this and are championing a person-centred approach to technology to give learning disabled adults greater control over their lives and to free up our care and support colleagues to spend more quality time with the people we support.”