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Who are we supporting?

We’re supporting Innovate Trust with grant funding of £15,000. The Trust provides a supported living service for 275 people with learning disabilities to enable them to live in the community. The type of support depends on the individual needs of each person; this may include 24-hour support including taking medication, attending appointments and household chores - the daily tasks for independent living. Its services are delivered under contract with the three local authorities of Cardiff, Rhondda Cynon Taf and Vale of Glamorgan.

What’s the idea?

The Trust has identified that intelligent personal assistant (IPA) technology has great potential to support a person with learning disabilities to live independently in the home.

It plans to research and test the use of IPA, and find out how it can work harmoniously with current assisted living technology such as sensors in the home to identify activity e.g. trips to the bathroom and kitchen during the night.

The Trust aims to trial the use of IPA technology in two supported living schemes and compare this to two control homes without IPAs. Staff support will continue throughout the research period. If proved successful the IPA system can then be used in other supported living homes during the implementation phase, with the aim of increasing the independence of people with learning disabilities to manage their daily lives.

Why is this important?

The supported living model has now existed for over 40 years with little change apart from additional bureaucracy and procedures. In general it has been a great success and people with learning disabilities now live more fulfilled lives. However, it can restrict an individual's independence and prevent people from attaining a home of their own without staff support. People can become dependent on their staff, parents may view it as too great a risk and statutory authorities are generally risk adverse.

Funding is an issue for the Trust. The implementation of the National Living Wage, and National Minimum Wage for those on sleep shifts cost Innovate Trust an additional £20,000 per week from April 2016. Costs are set to rise substantially with the increase in the NLW rising to over £9.00 per hour by 2020. Also recruitment and retention of staff in the sector is a challenge in the present economic climate.

How is the Trust hoping to save money and improve services?

Providing the current model of supported living is expensive and labour intensive (Innovate Trust employs over 800 staff to support 257 people). Assistive technology is a possible option in obtaining greater independence for people with learning disabilities while also achieving cost savings.

An IPA enables a person to operate a range of services via voice command, for example, house utilities, security and communication devices and also acts as a resource by providing a bus timetable, alarm clock and diary. This is in addition to being a useful device to aid speech development or simply enable a user to relax by listening to music.

This research project will help to make the case for the use of IPAs in the home of the service user and help persuade families and statutory services of the benefits. There is immense potential to make savings particularly with regards to night time support.

The implementation of IPAs is anticipated to make a saving in night time support currently at £68 per night per supported living scheme, which over a year amounts to £24,820. The Trust anticipates that ten schemes could initially benefit from IPA technology amounting to savings of £248,200 per year. Each supported living scheme accommodates three to four people, therefore benefiting up to 40 people with learning disabilities. This would also be a cost saving to the local authorities within their supported living contracts and ultimately, across the social care sector. The use of IPA technology could also increase safety in the home by associated fire and heat sensors raising the alarm quicker than a member of staff who is sleeping-in on the premises.