Get Connected: Project summary

Get Connected: Funding ICT to support personalisation and workforce development in adult social care in England

Users of social care services in England are frequently digitally excluded.  If resident in a care or nursing home there is likely to be limited access (if any) to ICT.  Many people receiving domiciliary care are likely to be in the most excluded group - people of pension age in lower income groups.   Staff working in care services often have limited access to ICT, although there is a wealth of online learning and information resources available.   Being able to communicate freely, whatever your age or disability, should be considered a basic outcome for adult social care users and carers. 

So Get Connected set out to do three things:

  1. To offer grant funding to small independent sector adult social care providers to improve their access to ICT and the equipment they had available.  The providers had to define a project that offered benefits to those who used their services and/or to staff in support of e-learning.
  2. To improve the link between social care and ICT, through partnership working, in particular to provide information on ICT set ups, identify trusted suppliers and help care providers to get started in using ICT.
  3. To embed access to ICT as an expected standard for social care providers to adopt.

Working with partners the Charity Technology Trust (CTT) and London Advice Services Alliance (LASA), SCIE advertised in four cycles during 2010 and 2011 the opportunity to bid for up to £20,000 for an ICT project in scope.  Large care providers and statutory agencies were excluded, and medium sized providers had to match fund.  Bids were screened for meeting project objectives, being technically competent and representing fair value for money for equipment included and prices.  

By December 2011, 1241 services had received funding totalling some £12 million. The funding was provided by the Department of Health.   86% were registered care or nursing homes, 10% domiciliary care agencies, 4% other services (including day services, drop in centres, women’s refuges).  The average grant requested was just over £12,000, the average paid £9,631, and some 75,000 users, 44,000 carers and 40,000 staff are estimated to have benefited directly from the funding. 

Guidance was provided on getting set up with ICT by LASA, adapted for care services.  LASA also provided a list of accredited suppliers of ICT equipment and services that grant recipients could use.  Care providers did not have to choose from the list, the emphasis was on getting a good relationship with a supplier to help with the successful implementation of their project and contribute to its sustainability.  SCIE subsequently published ‘Get Connected to e-learning for social care providers’ and has commissioned a second guide on using ICT with people with dementia. 

Two evaluations were commissioned for Get Connected, both on an action research basis.  One from ARP on process contributed to developing and strengthening the grant process and data analysis.  The second was on user and staff outcomes from NIACE (National Institute for Adult Continuing Education) and IES (Institute for Employment Studies).  These are all published on the SCIE website.   The methodology included online questionnaires and on-site case studies including user and staff interviews.  In summary, managers, users and staff reported positive outcomes from their Get Connected project, generally exceeding their expectations.  They provided examples of improved communication, including using e-mail and Skype; enhanced activities; support for learning and up-dating knowledge; and access to information that allowed choices such as shopping and price comparisons.  Managers added that visitors were on some sites using Wi-Fi access to bring in their own laptops and tablets to share activities, which was particularly popular with younger visitors.  As a by-product of the ICT investment examples were given of administrative gains such as improved care recording and sharing, rota management and joint working with NHS professionals.

Get Connected also wanted to bring about behaviour change in care providers, so that incorporating ICT in the life of a care setting became normal.  The funding of care services was intended to give a positive nudge to standards through incentives to invest.  The publication of information about grant recipients on the SCIE website, and the inclusion of this information in the data held by the care regulator should be helpful steps in establishing more access to ICT. 

It will not be possible with SCIE resources to support 1241 projects in keeping connected or to support other social care providers to get online.  As part of SCIE’s commitment to learning from outcomes, there will be further work with the grant recipients on how their projects are being sustained and what factors have contributed to this (or detracted from it).