“… likes linking, hates re-inventing…” (Care homes and volunteers)

The title of this post is taken from my Twitter bio and is something i’m keen to put into practice when I can. If there is a good idea or good project out there, let others know about it, don’t go off and set up something in competition or with similar aims.

This is a little late, but fills in some of what i’ve been doing on Connecting Care during the latter part of March (after coming back from #14NTC, which I know i’ve STILL not blogged about!).

IT in Care Home

IT Facilities for residents at Oakland Village – Swadlincote

One of the other projects alongside ours in the DoH Innovation, Excellence and Strategic Development programme is being delivered in 5 CCG areas by NCVO to link the work of local volunteer centres with care homes in their area. They are conducting research and developing pathways for volunteers to offer their skills to support the work and the residents. More details about the project and a list of the 12 care homes are here.)

In addition to traditional volunteering activities, we were keen to link with their work and find out the level of interest in the role of Digital Volunteers, both by the staff and residents of the care homes and as a skillset offered from the volunteer centres.

We attended all three of the NCVO events in Westminster, Oldham and Swadlincote, also at the joint event with My Home Life and CSV. The clear message heard from care homes was that more could be done with new technology, to offer digital skills support and to provide ways to supplement the role of Activities Co-ordinators in the care homes with suitable volunteers. This backs up the evidence we have seen from the care homes we have visited on Connecting Care. They are starting to see the importance of Tablet PCs and the place of these for art based activities, for reminicense and for communication with distant family members, but capacity to use them is often squeezed and (rightly) a secondary place to provision of support to residents. Something that volunteers may be able to help with.

I’d like to see the role of Social Care Digital Champions promoted (one for Digital Unite or Tinder a Foundation?). Of course there is the need to keep the main IT systems of the care home working, suitable equipment being in place and having good Wi-fi access … but that’s a topic for another blog post!

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Beside the seaside…

One of the care homes we are working with on Connecting Care is in the seaside town of Bognor Regis. On Thursday we paid a return visit to see how they are getting on with the actions from our first meeting.

It was great to hear of the positive steps they are taking such as their new website, about their activities co-ordinator who is using YouTube to show interesting video clips requested by the residents and that they are exploring activities to use on a Tablet PC.  They have even found a volunteer to look after any day to day technical issues they have with the office computers.

However it was the simple and affordable changes to the technology they use that are making the most difference.

  •  for £15 they bought an HDMI lead so that they can hook up a laptop to the large screen TV on the wall, this really has transformed the way they use this TV and the range of media that the residents can watch.
  • for less than that (£0) we set up a Box.com account for file sharing between the computers located in the building and with the committee members at home. Previously files were shared around on USB sticks and by e-mail attachments often resulting in delays, frustration, security risks and wasted time due to version control problems.

So these two very simple changes have enabled them to offer better digital facilities to residents and to work in a more efficient way… thus meaning they could have more time with their residents.

Digital Skills for the Care Sector

On Thursday Skills For Care launched the first part of their strategy on the digital skills needs of the care sector.Digital Working Strategy

This plan is based on results from an on-line and paper based survey conducted in the early part of this year. Further qualitative research and in depth interviews are to follow.

There is a Storify summary of the day and the strategy is available to read and download from the Skills for Care website, however some of the headline figures and findings presented by Sara Dunn really stood out for me so I’ve shared them here.

Encouragingly over 90% of managers in social care providers reported that their organisations are using digital technologies to support HR & recruitment, in delivery & recording of learning and to support marketing & communications.

Where the figures are the most revealing is when the same questions are asked separately of managers and their staff.

  • 78% of managers report that digital technology is used by their organisation to keep in touch with family and friends of residents, however only 48% of staff would report this as true.
  • The method used by staff for accessing the Internet varies and shows that the proliferation of smartphones & tablets maybe out of step with how organisations see Internet access. For example 74% of staff say they use their own smartphone for personal use to access the web with just 14% using an employer supplied device for this purpose. Also 20% of respondents say they have to use their own personal device for work use. The figures for Tablet use show a very similar proportion of own use and employer supplied devices.  Compare this with Desktop or Laptop access where 64% use an employer supplied computer (30% laptop)  against 10% using their own machine (15% from own laptop).
  • The skills gap varies across disciplines. Rather worryingly 22% of managers say they personally need increased Basic On-line Skills as do 52% of frontline staff! There is also a call for increased Digital Champion skills by 50% of managers and  a massive 80% of frontline staff.
  • There is a large gap in the perception by managers of the level of digital skills their staff have against the rating staff would give themselves. 97% of staff say they have good basic on-line skills, but only 48% of managers would agree. 91% of staff say they have on-line security awareness, a view shared by only 40% of managers. We discussed this and wonder if it could be that staff consider themselves to be digitally skilled if they can use a smartphone or tablet to navigate the web, make on-line purchases, access social network sites and manipulate images. This would be against a managers view who would only consider staff to be digitally skilled if they could use mail merge, spreadsheet formulas and other parts of their desktop office software.

Echoing the findings of our Connecting Care work, the survey and subsequent discussions highly rated the often self led digital innovations sourced by Activities Co-ordinators in care homes. These unofficial digital champions could lead the way in bringing tablet technology, mobile apps for arts and reminiscence or simply websites like YouTube and Google Streetview into a care setting.

There is still a way to go, particularly around addressing the  IT and digital infrastructure basic needs of small voluntary sector care providers, but the strategy that this research has produced feels like a very positive start in skills development for staff providing care services.

March Travels

There is a lot happening in my calendar during March. A lot!
I’m planning to record it on this blog under the category ‘Marching’.

So, if you’re interested in some (or all) of … travel (near and far), technology for non-profits / voluntary organisations, social media, digital skills, beer and tea, stay tuned. Some posts may be random observations, others a little more in depth.

I know I’ll learn lots along the way and hope to share it for others too.