To cite: Whitfield, G., Hamblin, K. (2022) Technology in social care: review of the UK policy landscape. Centre for Care Working Paper 1, CIRCLE, Sheffield: University of Sheffield
©The authors and CIRCLE, The University of Sheffield, December 2022
Aim of the paper
- To provide insight into the recent policy context related to the development and implementation of technologies in care arrangements in England (2019-2022);
- To examine the factors influencing the development and implementation of technologies in care arrangements in England;
- To update a working paper from the Sustainable Care Programme [SCP] (Wright, 2020) which explored the use of digital technologies in the UK adult social care sector, 2000-19.
Structure and approach
The paper explores policy developments relevant to care and technologies between 2019 and 2022, analysing recent changes to funding structures, strategic priorities and government organisations. We adopt an approach similar to Wright (in his 2020 paper) in: how we categorise technologies used in care; in adopting a thematic approach; and in focusing on actions by national/local policy and practice and trade and industry organisations. Our paper is timely and covers years characterised by ongoing debate, policy change and new implementation of technologies in care. Unlike Wright, we concentrate on developments in England in this paper (and do not examine changes in other UK nations), in line with our plans for new fieldwork in the Centre for Care’s ‘Digital Care’ theme.
The paper begins with an introduction which outlines thethematic structure of the paper, exploring the impact of Covid-19 pandemic on digital care technologies, recent policy documents and key industry and trade organisations shaping implementation of care technologies. We then examine the issue of ‘pilotisis’ and the proliferation of projects funded and implemented at local level. The next section widens the focus to the national level, analysing changes in governmental bodies responsible for funding and ‘transforming’ use of care technologies and considers criticisms of their approaches. The ‘financialisation’ and role of private equity in funding and developing digital technologies for use in care provision is then examined, before a discussion of the implications of this, and the aforementioned broad shifts, concludes the paper.
Wright’s conclusions (2020) emphasised the ‘fragmented’ and ‘broken’ nature of the social care sector and highlighted a lack of national leadership or direction. Our paper explores this in more depth, highlighting the processes, context and factors (Hamblin et al, 2017) that affect the development and implementation of care technologies, and identifying three main issues:
- Localisation of technology implementation
- Shifts in policy focus among governmental bodies
- Increased financialisation among care and technology providers