Newcastle City Council secures innovative housing funding

Newcastle City Council has successfully secured capital funding of £418,000 to purchase modern technology to support adults with a learning disability.

The funding has been secured through the Department of Health’s Housing and Technology Capital Fund, which was launched in September this year.

The money, which will be spent over 2 years, will be used to install new, modern technology for up to 30 smart-homes for people receiving community based care.  

The aim is to utilise the technology to help increase the independence of service users and allow them more choice over housing. It will also modernise and improve some of the community housing provision available in the city.

The Council hopes to create a new partnership to pilot the creation of the smart homes, which will make safer, efficient and independent housing.

At the heart of the technology will be a central hub which will offer monitoring, prompts and communications as well as entertainment and ways to monitor the user’s health. Both the service user and carer will have access to the hubs and they will provide a valuable link.

Other innovations include a safety shut off feature for electrical appliances and water and bio-metric doors that use thumb prints to allow access to residents. Traditional key doors often provide challenges for service users who have concerns over losing or misplacing their keys.   

Touch screen devices or Smartboxes will also be available with controls for heating and lighting as well as audio/visual commands, these will be tailored so they have the most functional input method for the user and service users will  be supported to learn how their technology works. These screens will also provide video support to the user, such as filming themselves prepare a meal which they can watch again to support cognitive recognition.

These innovative solutions will be used alongside more traditional types of technology to support people with practical daily tasks and personal care.  The partnership approach to the pilot will start in January 2017 when work will start with up to 30 people living in a range of community based support. This work will focus on identifying the individual needs of the service user and the design of tailored packages of support.

The technology will then be installed and a detailed evaluation carried out after 12 months to fully understand the positive impact the innovations have made.

Minister for Community Health and Care David Mowat said:

“I want to offer my sincere congratulations to the successful project in Newcastle. We had a fantastic response to our call for bids and I’m delighted that the innovative ideas put forward for increasing provision of suitable housing will now become a reality. I want to thank the bidders for their dedication to improving the lives of people with learning disabilities in their community and wish them all the best in bringing this important project to life.”

Councillor Karen Kilgour, Cabinet member for Adult Care and Health said, “I am really pleased that the bid for the funding has been successful. This is a really exciting project and shows that our services are willing to adapt and modernise whilst still providing top class care.

Successful partnership working will be key to the success of the project and I am pleased to see that partners from across the health and social care system, as well as technology providers and service users and families are on board with the programme.

The programme, as well as being forward thinking, will also help to increase independence for our service users whilst we continue to minimise and monitor any risks they may face. It is also estimated that the project, if successful, could save the services money. One report from ATEL suggests that the technology could save our service approximately £50k per service user, per year”

 The first of the new technology based smart homes is expected to be functional by spring 2017.