Chris Metcalf

I have worked in social care for 29 years, originally within learning disability and mental health services working in residential and respite care, day services, and outreach services, located in Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire.

Following a relocation to Norfolk, for the past 17 years I have worked in the Assistive Technology team within Norfolk County Council. Initially as part of a small team of practitioners tasked to set up the fledgling service, then as an assessor, installer, and trainer.

In 2014 I took over the management of the team, first as practitioner manager, and (as the service has grown) subsequently as County Manager.

In the recent past I have been fortunate to be able to complete a Foundation degree (2011-13), and Master’s degree (2014-17) in Assistive Technology (both from Coventry University).  In my forties (at the time) I found academia later in life!

I continue to be passionate about the possibilities for technology enabled care, whilst having a desire for ongoing personal learning.  Being able to conduct research regarding Assistive Technology is a fantastic opportunity that I am really looking forward to.

My research project

Exploring citizen attitudes towards the use of Technology Enabled Care home activity monitoring systems to provide proactive social care service interventions to support independent living at home.

Social services utilise technology enabled care (TEC), to support older people to remain living independently at home. One type of TEC is home activity monitoring sensors. These include movement sensors (at least), which collect continuous data, sent to an online portal. Trusted informal carers can view a person’s activity history, and receive real time alerts, to their smart phone. Any decline or deviation in a person’s normal routine might predict a problem early on.

However, this TEC presents a greater level of personal intrusion compared to existing TEC. Currently community (pendant) alarms, with additional (telecare) home sensors linked to an alarm centre, only send data in the event of an incident, such as a fall or fire risk.

The Government and TEC Services Association advocate social services utilise more activity monitoring technology, with access to its data providing opportunity for more proactive, preventative care interventions. They focus on the benefits of this technology.

Existing research regarding activity monitoring users sharing data with informal carers, or health clinicians, highlight concerns regarding reduced privacy and autonomy, loss of dignity, data security worries, and loss of control of one’s private life.

This study addresses a research gap, as there is no research regarding sharing data into social services. It will explore older people’s perceptions regarding benefits and concerns of this technology; specifically, regarding social services accessing data. Findings could inform social services development, delivery, and adoption success of this TEC service.

This is a qualitative study, involving a single interview with older people in receipt of social services input. The study is funded by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR), as part of the Social Care Research in Practice Teams (SCRiPT) study. Recruitment will be via Shaping Our Lives, a national user led organisation, involved in SCRiPT.