The digital era shaping the way we work, rest and play

The digital era is shaping the way we work, rest and play. As peoples’ digital awareness has grown so to has our appetite for modern gadgets, such as Smart phones and iPads, says Bev Coumbe.  

The way technology is being used across the care sector, such as the use of apps to help people with learning disabilities navigate local bus services or ensuring kitchen appliances are switched off, has finally come under the Government’s radar.

The Department of Health has tasked Skills for Care to assess how health and care professionals across the UK are using digital technologies, and whether the workforce has the skills to get the most out of digital technologies and ultimately improve the lives of those they are caring for.

Green Light is one of the first companies in the South West to be assessed by Skills for Care, which says around 9 million people in the UK are currently not online, with the majority of those over 50.
Green Light’s MD Jo Pyrah, Sara Dunn and Sarah Miller, Green Light’s head of recruitment and compliance

Skills for Care has commissioned independent research consultant, Sara Dunn, to better understand the digital skills currently needed in adult social care services and helping employers on the most effective use of learning technologies.

During her site visit to the Redruth-based company, one of eight visits across the UK, she said: “No one had looked at the use of digital technology across the whole of the care sector. There is a great amount of variability in the way companies use technology.  We are looking at workforce skills from browsing the internet to more advanced digital technologies and finding that there are large knowledge gaps.”

The care sector has been dominated by women, although in 2013 the picture had changed as  as greater numbers of men entered the profession, she said. “Traditionally it is a sector that employed older women, younger people are now joining, bringing new skills.”

Green Light, she said, was ahead of the game having set out on a tight budget and determined to utilise digital technology that has proven to be the most efficient and cost effective way of establishing its services supporting people with autism. The use of technology is also encouraged amongst its customers, with many having their own portable Tablets, mobile phones and iPods.  Green Light registered manager, Ryan Smith, who oversees a team of 16 staff in Newquay, said he was “clued up” when it comes to digital technology, and enjoyed keeping up to date on the latest advances.

“We have laptops that we use to write up daily logs and reports, although many staff use their Smart phones, which they find more convenient.  It’s a real time system that makes it easy for us all to see what’s going on each day.  In past jobs I have spent hours searching for paper documents for social workers to read, now they are at the touch of a button.  I would say its 50 per cent more efficient than a paper-based system. It’s a fresh approach and one that I enjoy.  I help colleagues and customers to engage with technology, it’s often just a case of showing them how it’s done.”

Green Light has created an online calendar, to be used on a mobile phone, for one individual to help him sequence tasks of daily living.  This is linked to resources supporting this, such as social stories and videos that demonstrate visually how tasks can be completed.  A chat function has been set up allowing the person to ask questions or seek assistance from trusted people in areas they may have previously struggled with in the past.

There is a concern from many within the care profession that technology would replace meaningful conversations and interaction, said Ms Dunn. “There is still a sense that the human side of care is not compatible with technology. There are situations where you can see digital getting in the way of care rather than helping.  For us it’s not about digital replacing human contact or becoming a barrier.  We want to recommend technologies and focus on which ones would be best suited to certain companies and then help them improve their employees’ digital awareness and confidence.”

Ryan Smith said his staff were aware of the risks that modern technology brings, especially for people with complex needs, saying: “We have one young man who loves listening to music. He would spend all day in his bedroom listening to his iPod if other options weren’t offered, but it’s about striking the right balance and using technology to enhance their experiences.  Green Light’s ethos and culture is to enable people to lead fulfilling lives, which ultimately makes our jobs more challenging and satisfying.”

For Jo Pyrah, technology doesn’t suit all, but is there to be used in the right circumstances, adding: “What we have achieved would be very difficult to achieve in an established company.  We set up with no legacy issues.  We had a blank canvas and could design our systems and processes to operate on today’s technology centred on customer need.

“We invested in low cost hardware, replacing any factory set proprietary software with open source software.  The back-end of the business we established in the cloud to more efficiently serve the customer facing-side of what we do.  We now have 105 employees and apart from some initial orientation very little IT training is needed, because what we do is now aligned with what people are used to in their everyday lives.  For me, it’s satisfying to know that families can log in when and where it suits them and can share their experience with the team.  We can work together - literally on the same page - to  provide better support to people with autism and their families.”  

For further information you can find Sara Dunn Associates at

Skills for Care are @skillsforcare

Green Light website is

Bev Coumbe is on Twitter @bevcoumbe or @autismcornwall

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