Sector Pulse Check report 2021 imahe

A recent report from learning disabilities charity Hft has revealed some of the barriers social care providers face in accessing digital solutions to help those they care for remain connected with loved ones.

Hft recently published its annual Sector Pulse Check report, which asked social care providers about their financial health and the difficulties they faced in 2020.

As well as exploring mental health struggles and redundancies, the survey also quizzed social care providers about digital barriers that prevented them from ensuring those they support remain connected.

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One key barrier cited was a lack of digital skills among the individuals supported, which three-quarters of care organisations reported as a large constraint. Second to this, the loved ones of the people who receive support often lack digital capabilities as well, with this factor being listed by two-thirds of respondents as a large barrier, Hft adds.

Other highly selected barriers are the cost of purchasing technology and the digital skills of staff, the survey also found.

“While nearly all providers have made some efforts to ensure those they support remain in touch with family, friends and loved ones throughout the pandemic, significant digital barriers hinder this, meaning people with learning disabilities are at risk of feeling lonely and isolated,” the report reads.

“As we slowly understand the long term impact of the Covid-19 pandemic – which may include moves to not only socialise but also work and access goods and services online – it is more important than ever that social care providers and people with learning disabilities are provided with the tools and skills to be included in this rapid shift.”

To help improve access to digital solutions, Hft is calling on the UK Government to provide immediate additional funding for the learning disability social care sector to enable providers to purchase digital devices for those they support and to provide digital training.

The charity also recommends that, in the long-term, Personal Independence Payments (PIP) should be opened up so that people with learning disabilities can lease or buy technology and assistive technology.

It also suggests that the core and mandatory training received by social care staff (as set by Skills for Care) must be updated to include digital skills training and training in assistive technology.

Importantly, Hft also says that after providing immediate funding to stabilise the social care sector, in the medium-term, the government should bring forward a long-term funding solution for social care that is both equitable and sustainable. This is to ensure that social care providers can cease making staff redundancies and handing back contracts, and continue to provide essential, high-quality social care to people with learning disabilities.

Kirsty Matthews, Chief Executive of Hft, commented: “It is indisputable that the pandemic has helped to raise the profile and understanding of the issues faced by those providing social care. However, it is clear that there are still significant gaps, with the people we support experiencing prejudicial health inequalities throughout the last year and financial insecurity widespread across our sector.

“As we hopefully see the pandemic abate, let 2021 be a year when the government finally keeps its promises and social care receives the funding and recognition it truly deserves. We hope that the findings and recommendations within this report spur the changes that are so desperately needed.”

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