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Are the communications needs of residents in care homes being met?

21 October 2021

The pandemic has shone a spotlight as never before on the lives of people living in residential care and supported accommodation. The use of communications services can help people living in residential care to stay connected socially, be entertained (though radio, broadcast TV, PayTV and subscription services) and where relevant live more independently, learn online and access public services.  

We sought to understand the degree to which residents’ communications needs are being met and whether communication services are available, reliable, affordable, flexible and secure within residential care settings.

“It’s down to us [family] to organise anything tech related, there isn’t a skillset for it within the team.” – Family member whose mother is in a medium-sized independent care home in the Midlands 

Our primary objectives were to understand:

  • The needs and experiences of users of communications services who live in residential care and nursing homes, and whether they are being met by today’s communication market
  • The degree to which communications services (including landline, mobile, broadband and TV) are available, affordable and flexible for people living in care homes and nursing homes
  • The barriers that people in this accommodation experience in accessing communications services
  • What more can be done to ensure that governments, regulators and industry provide an inclusive communications market, with support for people in vulnerable circumstances and alternative accommodation
  • The extent to which existing initiatives to improve connectivity in care are addressing the issues people face

Key Insights

  • The current care landscape does not meet many people’s needs around connection. Many residents are digitally excluded and unable to connect to or participate in the outside world because of a lack of basic infrastructure such as good Wi-Fi, phone signal throughout the home or the right devices.
  • Many care homes offer only a basic connectivity package. This often involves communal landline phones, TVs in rooms with Freeview and some (often unreliable) home-wide Wi-Fi. Communal devices in particular are often hard to access and deprive residents of privacy when making calls.
  • There is a very large disparity between the experiences of residents who do have connectivity, and those who do not. Where residents have been able to benefit from good connectivity, this is often because family members have helped them to establish their own connectivity services, to put in Wi-Fi networks, buy them mobile phones or provide voice technology. Access to this type of connectivity can have major benefits for residents’ quality of life, dignity and independence.
  • Residents’ unmet needs around connection stem mostly from the fact that connectivity is not prioritised within the residential care sector or by external actors in a position to drive change. In particular, many staff interviewed felt that residents would not necessarily benefit from improved connectivity. There were few examples available to them which highlighted the improvements to people’s quality of life that improved connectivity could enable.
  • Residents themselves are often expected to be the drivers of improvements around connectivity, with changes only made when a resident or their family requests something new or different. But the residents interviewed were often unaware of what was possible, or of their own unmet need.
  • Conceptual, structural and practical barriers all inhibit the prioritisation of connectivity within residential care

Our recommendations

There are five key areas in which strong opportunities exist for communications and technology providers, regulators and governments and care homes themselves to work together to deliver improved connectivity and connection to care home residents.

  • Expecting connection – raising expectations held by residents, family and care home staff by setting clearer expectations on what ‘high quality’ connectivity looks like in adult residential care – and improving reporting to ensure that people know if this common standard of provision is being met.
  • Sparking imagination – encouraging innovation and demonstrating what is possible in terms of delivering connectivity in care.
  • Filling the responsibility gap – ensuring there is clarity about which parties (residents, friends and family, care staff and management, regulators, communications and technology providers) are responsible for driving improvement.
  • Redefining connectivity – clarifying that high quality connectivity is more than simply providing a Wi-Fi connection, but includes all the necessary components to enable residents to have a connected life.
  • Improving skills – supporting frontline and management teams in care to better understand the role of connectivity services, to engage with communications and technology providers around these products and services and support residents to meet their connection needs.

Research reports

Panel's cover report:

Connecting with Care_CCP_2021 (Word version)

Connecting with Care_CCP_2021 (PDF version)

Cysylltu â Gofal 2021 (Word version)

Cysylltu â Gofal 2021 (PDF version)

Agency report:

Revealing Reality CCP Residential Care Report - October 2021 (Word version)

Revealing Reality CCP Residential Care Report - October 2021 (pdf version)

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