Innovators are being urged to come forward with ways technology could be used to help those in isolation suffering from loneliness and mental health issues.
A £500,000 fund has been set up by the Government, looking for solutions that can provide remote social care, optimise the care and volunteer sector, or improve mental health support, such as a tool able to locate and match qualified carers to those in need.
Companies – which can bid for up to £25,000 each – will need to have their digital ideas ready to go within a few weeks.
“Staying at home and avoiding contact with others will be absolutely necessary in reducing the spread of this virus and ultimately it will save lives,” said Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock.
“However, we know isolation is not easy – especially for older people, those who live alone, have mental health problems, or those who care for others.
“If people cannot leave the house, we need to quickly find ways to bring support to them and today I am calling on the strength of our innovative technology sector to take on this challenge.
“Techforce19 will mobilise the UK’s incredible reservoir of talent to develop simple, accessible tools that can be rolled out quickly and help tackle the effect of social isolation.
“I am calling on our brilliant tech sector to take on this challenge.”
📣We've launched Techforce19- a new tech challenge to combat the effects of social isolation. Funding available for digital solutions to help provide social care or mental health support during #COVID19.
— NHSX (@NHSX) March 23, 2020
The move comes as those considered most at risk of having serious complications from Covid-19 are asked to stay at home for 12 weeks as part of efforts to shield them from the virus.
“Tech can play an important role in helping the country deal with the challenges created by coronavirus,” said Matthew Gould, chief executive of NHSX.
“This competition is focused on the problems created by isolation, which lend themselves to digital solutions.
“It will allow NHSX to accelerate the development of those solutions, so, within weeks, they can help those in isolation suffering from loneliness, mental health issues, and other problems.”
Those interested can visit Techforce19.uk.