Service deliveryAdult Social CareGovernment approves £4.5m for Carers Innovation Fund

Government approves £4.5m for Carers Innovation Fund

Carers Innovation Fund is looking out for creative and cost-effective ways to improve the wellbeing of carers of family and friends

The Department for Health and Social Care has made £5 million available to improve support for carers, Minister of Care, Caroline Dinenage has announced.

Community organisations, small businesses and tech companies that come up with creative and cost-effective ways to improve the wellbeing of carers of family and friends will benefit from the Carers Innovation Fund.

Speaking ahead of a Carers’ Centre Tower Hamlets event where the Fund will be launched, Dinenage said: “Informal care is a fundamental part of our health and care system, which would not be sustainable without the incredible contribution of carers across the country. But we cannot take them for granted and must do more to protect their well-being and ensure they can enjoy full lives.

“This £5 million investment will help build our understanding of the kinds of support that work for carers, outside of traditional healthcare services. From cafés that bring carers together to innovative forms of technology that help carers enjoy time off, I want to see a range of exciting projects boosted and their benefits unlocked.”

New ways to support

The fund is seeking applications from organisations from a mix of sectors for projects that will help carers to be:

  • More recognised and connected
  • Better able to juggle working and caring
  • Better able to look after their own health and wellbeing

Welcoming the launch, Helen Walker, CEO of Carers UK said: “There’s never been a more important time to develop and accelerate new ways to support unpaid carers. As we live and work longer, with technology transforming so many aspects of our lives, it’s time to innovate to support the way families are living today.”

Examples of the kind of innovative projects the fund would invest in include technology platforms which help carers take a break from their caring responsibilities and support groups, which develop peer support groups and offer short courses to help reduce isolation.

Applicants will need to demonstrate their idea is a fresh approach that is better than existing provision, will benefit the local community and can be expanded and replicated.

Voluntary sector, charities, SMEs and commercial organisations can all bid for seed-funding to prove their concept and build the case for sustained funding from other sources.

Carers Action Plan

The Minister first announced the fund last year as part of the Carers Action Plan, a cross-government programme of targeted work to support unpaid carers over the next two years. Initially worth half a million pounds, Ministers subsequently increased the available funding to £5 million.

Since the plan was published, several government-funded projects have launched including a national project to improve recognition of carers and enable better access to services and community facilities; and an employer benchmarking scheme to benefit them in the workplace.

Using technology to fill the gaps

As the population ages, the demand for high-quality domiciliary care rises. By 2026 it’s predicted that the UK will need around 420,000 more people in the care sector. The current vacancy rate high and the amount of those showing interest in the domiciliary care sector diminishing. It’s important that technology is utilised in order to help fill the gaps and provide the best social care possible.

Human and bot could soon work together to improve domiciliary care. Digital solutions should be coming to the forefront of domiciliary care. However, it needs to be remembered that it’s those behind the systems that are the most important. Any bot or device will never replace humans. But the smart home approach to domiciliary care could help them to better answer the ever-increasing cries for help.

A lot is happening around the adult social care in the UK, technology wise. A Digital scheme has prevented thousands of avoidable hospital visits and the sector has witnessed investments in case management tech and telecare solutions for older residents.

There is also a dedicated website and an app launched to connect social care organisations and jobseekers.

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