County council agrees year extension for “life-changing” digital support package for isolated and lonely adults

Robert Greenfield, 75, using video carephone (Credit: KCC)

By Local Democracy Reporter Ciaran Duggan

Hundreds of elderly and vulnerable Kent residents will continue to benefit from a video device used to contact relatives as Covid restrictions ease.

Kent County Council (KCC) has agreed to sign a 12-month extension for a “life-changing” digital support package for isolated and lonely adults from April.

Around 1,100 tablets have been issued to disadvantaged older people and those living with a learning disability. They can be used to book health consultations and serve as a valuable tool for contacting friends and family regularly.

The devices have been distributed across the county in the last eight months after a £1.5million contract was signed with care technology provider, Alcove.

KCC’s public health cabinet member, Cllr Clair Bell (Con) said the council was “championing” the use of advanced tech.

Supporting the proposals, she told the KCC’s adult social care committee: “It has allowed residents to call friends and family from all across the world.”

The announcement comes just before care home residents are able to receive a face-to-face visit from a friend or member of their family household as lockdown restrictions are eased from Monday (March 8).

Since July, at least 2,000 elderly or vulnerable residents have made a total of 127,000 video calls on the touch screen, lasting for around 400,000 minutes.

In addition, the devices help people in other aspects of their life, including ordering shopping and medical prescriptions.

Dawn Crosby, manager of Spencer House care home in Birchington, says the tablets have been “life-changing” for her residents.

She said: “Before we had the device, relatives would have to call the mainline number, meaning we couldn’t undertake any other business by phone or accept other calls for hours of the day.

“The picture quality and sound are brilliant. It is like they are seeing a real person and much better than a phone call or window visit.”

Canterbury City county councillor Ida Linfield (Lib Dem), who is a member of KCC’s adult social care committee, described the device rollout as “brilliant”.

Seeking to secure their long-term future, she said: “I hope this can continue beyond April 2022. What is stopping them from being permanent?”

Clare Maynard, who is KCC’s head of commissioning for older and vulnerable people, expressed confidence that further contract extensions could be made.

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