Remote care technologies, older people, and the social care crisis in the United Kingdom : a multiple streams approach to understanding the 'silver bullet' of telecare policy

Eccles, Andrew (2019) Remote care technologies, older people, and the social care crisis in the United Kingdom : a multiple streams approach to understanding the 'silver bullet' of telecare policy. Ageing and Society. ISSN 0144-686X (In Press)

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    Abstract

    The policy announcement in November 2018 by the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care that: 'from today, let this be clear: tech transformation is coming' indicates that confidence in care technologies, so apparent over the past decade in policy circles, remains unabated. This article suggests, based on evidence of significant limitations in technological solutions to care needs, that this confidence is misplaced. The focus is on remote care technologies - primarily telecare - which involve the passive or real time monitoring of recipients, the majority of whom will be older people. These information and communication technologies (ICT) have been heralded by politicians, policy makers and industry interests alike as a solution to the challenges of demographic change and social care demand. While the research evidence suggests telecare works well for some people, in some circumstances, there are also significant complexities in its use, challenges presented to care relationships, and conflicting interpretations around its efficacy and cost effectiveness. These critical issues have been marginalised in the mainstream discourse around telecare policy. This article explores the dissonance between this policy and the available evidence, drawing on a Multiple Streams Approach (Kingdon, 1995; 2011) to analyse the emergence of, and continued confidence in, telecare policy based on a congruence of views across policy interests. To the extent that social care for older people is now in crisis, the article argues that the discourse around telecare represents an example of 'silver bullet' thinking: that is, too much focus on a single policy solution to address complex problems. Accordingly, the crisis in social care has deepened, without alternative policy proposals being available to address it. The renewed push for ICT-based solutions to this crisis in social care ought therefore to be viewed with some concern.