Blackburn with Darwen Council: making the most of telecare

Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council has put itself at the forefront of assistive care technology. It uses both monitored and stand-alone devices to help 2,500 people live independently. Each person is given their own individually tailored package. For some it means they do not need care, while for others it helps to complement that care.

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Blackburn with Darwen is ranked in the top 20 most deprived local authorities in England. It faces some significant demographic challenges with the number of over 65s set to increase by over 50 per cent by 2030. Until six years ago, Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council had not got involved in providing telecare as a care support solution, but advances in technology and pressure on the social care budget led the council to invest in new technologies to help keep people safe in their own homes, and so the telecare service was introduced.

The solution

The council now embraces assistive technology and leads the way in innovatively improving the support it offers to residents, applying a cost effective solution.

Those who may benefit from telecare are referred to the council’s social care team who carry out an assessment of need. People can also self-refer too.

There are two basic types of technology – monitored and stand-alone, which is only connected to a family member or friend.

Monitored includes falls pendants, alarms and bed sensors that are linked to the monitoring and response centre run by current provider, Tunstall. When an alarm is triggered the individual is connected through to the Tunstall team who triage to find out what help is needed and then alert either the service user’s named responder, the council’s social care crisis service or, if it is a medical emergency, the ambulance service.

The stand-alone technology includes GPS tracking technology that is provided to people with dementia, medication reminders, and bed occupancy sensors that alert when a person gets up during the night.

The impact

Over the past six years the council has seen the numbers using the telecare service rise from a just a handful to over 2,500 as Blackburn with Darwen has put itself at the forefront of the assistive technology movement. Most of them – 1,900 – are provided with monitored assistive technology. The remaining 600 use the stand-alone devices.

But it is not just older people who have benefited from the service. Telecare is available to anyone who has needs over the age of 18.

Due to the communication issues they face, deaf people are placed at a significant disadvantage when dealing with emergencies at home, such as a fire, flood or carbon monoxide leak.

The sensory impairment team has therefore been working with the council’s lifeline supplier to provide an enhanced alerting service for deaf residents. 

This has been done by linking the telecare lifeline system with specialist alerting equipment for the deaf.

This new system not only helps a deaf person get help if they have a fall at home, it can also alert them if there is an emergency, their baby is crying or if the doorbell, phone or minicom is ringing via a wrist pager.

Lessons learned

Joanne Hart-Wike, team manager for Moving, Handling and Telecare Services at Blackburn with Darwen, says it is essential to tailor the support around the individual.

“Developing services that focus on building the strengths of an individual, considering the person, their family and the support they have in the wider community is important. Some people they will not have care packages and telecare will enable those people to maintain their wellbeing and live independently; for others assistive technology will complement the care they receive.”

How is the approach is being sustained?

The nature of telecare means that new products are coming on to the market all the time. Ms Hart-Wike says recently the council has started looking at technologies that can monitor a person’s movements during the day to build up intelligence and trends on their normal movements.

For example, the equipment can show if a person has used an appliance like the kettle or opened the fridge, which would indicate if a person is active in the kitchen.

“Often people can confuse day and night time, especially during periods of illness and winter months,” Ms Hart-Wike says.

“The use of this assistive technology helps us to target provision of services to periods of the day that a person may be vulnerable, which is a more effective use of resources and ensures that a person receives the support when they need it the most.”


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