Mark SayManaging EditorWednesday 10 January 2018

Knowlsey to use behavioural insights for assistive tech

Council receives backing from Local Government Association for project using behavioural science to get more people using assistive care devices at home

Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council is launching a pilot project to draw on insights from behavioural science to increase the use of assistive technology in adult social care.

Abstract - Solutions monitorIt is running the programme with a £25,000 grant from the Local Government Association (LGA) – one of seven allocated by the LGA under its Behavioural Insights Programme – and matching funds from its resources.

Project manager Dave Tyrell told UKAuthority that the work could continue up to March 2019 and is aimed at increasing the take-up of the technology by 10-12% over the next year, building on a similar increase over the past calendar year.

He said it is “something of a battle” to get many older people to begin using the technology, even though it is not expensive for them, and that the council is looking to engage a behavioural insights specialist to work with it over the next year.

“I think people are sometimes put off because they think of technology as being complicated,” he said. “We want to look at what people understand about how it works, with the key words being ‘awareness’ and ‘training’.”

Cost factor

Tyrell said the cost for users can put some of them off at the crucial stage, and that the council has two initial approaches to overcome this: offering people the use of devices free-of-charge for 12 weeks; and offering it freely for a period when they are discharged from hospital. Instructions on how to use the devices come from the suppliers.

This would be just a first step, with the potential to apply several aspects of behavioural science to increase take-up.

“We’re also looking to change the way we present the technology through our social work teams,” Tyrell said. “We have about 250 practitioners and we want them to be able to show people it can be good for them.”

This could also involve two approaches by the social workers: educating patients on how it can provide benefits to their lives; and highlighting the long term costs of regular care.

“One of our targets is people who might be in great need and can use the technology as a prevention measure,” he said. “It could be as simple and presentable as an Amazon Echo device.”

Six other projects

The LGA has made £175,000 available overall for individual authorities to look at how behavioural insights can help in dealing with various service challenges. In addition to Knowsley, it has provided £25,000 each to six other authorities:

  • East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service to change behaviour with the aim of reducing accidental fires.
  • Hartlepool Borough Council, to reduce drug and alcohol misuse among children and young people.
  • London Borough of Croydon, to ease the demand in special educational needs and disabilities transport services.
  • North East Lincolnshire Council, to increase the uptake of cancer screening programmes.
  • Warrington Borough Council, to manage the demand for education, health and care plans among children and young people.
  • Worcestershire Country Council, to increase the payment of their adult social care invoices using nudge theory.

The organisations and the LGA will share the results and learnings from the projects as they become available.

Councillor Paul Bettison, chair of the LGA’s Improvement and Innovation Board, said: “Councils are experiencing both a fall in resources but at the same time an increase in demand, and are under more pressure than ever before. As a result they are increasingly turning to behavioural insight techniques as really effective ways of managing demand for local services.

“To help support this work, the LGA is funding a series of behavioural insight projects in a bid to encourage innovation, which can then be shared across the country for other organisations to benefit from. We look forward to seeing this latest phase build on the success of the previous rounds.”

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