As the largest representative body for independent providers of adult social care, Care England welcomes the opportunity to submit evidence to the Democracy and Digital Technologies Committee.
By way of background, Care England a registered charity, is the leading representative body for independent care services in England. Our membership includes organisations of varying types and sizes, amongst them single care homes, small local groups, national providers and not-for-profit organisations and associations. Between them they provide a variety of services for older people and those with long-term conditions, learning disabilities or mental health problems.
Care England’s remit in the field of digital transformation are to facilitate:
i) innovation to improve people’s wellbeing;
ii) integrated communication across health and social care; and
iii) efficiencies at a time when resources in social care are being stretched.
As such its response to the Committee focuses on its role in the care sector and the role technology can play. Care England is part of NHS Digital’s Digital Social Care Programme together with other care trade bodies and training organisations. The Digital Social Care website has been launched (https://www.digitalsocialcare.co.uk) and will become the go to site for all social care providers to access information about tech and innovation in social care.
The comments in the sections below refer specifically to how older and vulnerable people in our society can link to the democratic institutions. We would welcome being called to give oral evidence on behalf of the many vulnerable people who are receiving care either in their home or a registered care setting.
Digital technology has transformed the way that vulnerable people in the UK have been enabled (rather than disabled) to participate in society. Care England has witnessed people with learning disabilities being able to use their voice to add to the democratic debate and technology has levelled the playing field for vulnerable people to make their voice heard and campaign for better care for themselves.
Care England believes that work-based digital skills training sponsored by statutory bodies can increase democratic involvement, for example the CQC has recently asked carers to refer to them on thoughts about how care could be improved. These improved communications have allowed many workers to access democratic institutions and receive funding than would have been possible before.
Privacy and anonymity
8. To what extent does social media negatively shape public debate, either through encouraging polarisation or through abuse deterring individuals from engaging in public life?
Vulnerable people may be unwilling to engage in public debate, because their resilience is often lower than other people in society and a way needs to be found for vulnerable people to feel safe in expressing their views.
9. To what extent do you think that there are those who are using social media to attempt to undermine trust in the democratic process and in democratic institutions; and what might be the best ways to combat this and strengthen faith in democracy?
10. What might be the best ways of reducing the effects of misinformation on social media platforms?
11. How could the moderation processes of large technology companies be improved to better tackle abuse and misinformation, as well as helping public debate flourish?
Technology and democratic engagement
12. How could the Government better support the positive work of civil society organisations using technology to facilitate engagement with democratic processes?
13. How can elected representatives use technology to engage with the public in local and national decision making? What can Parliament and Government do to better use technology to support democratic engagement and ensure the efficacy of the democratic process?
The number of centenarians living in the UK has increased 85% in the past 15 years (ONS), and by 2030 it is anticipated there will be over 21,000 centenarians (ONS). In 50 years, there are projected to be an additional 8.6 million people aged 65 years and over. The 85+ age group is the fastest growing and is set to double to 3.2 million by mid-2041 and treble by 2066 (5.1 million; 7% of the UK population). It is important that money be set aside to assure the access of older and vulnerable people to the democratic institutions by greater use of voice and audio technology, so for example reference groups could be peopled by people remotely who are receiving care either in their own homes or a home with care setting. Care England proposes a Commissioner for Older People to champion the rights of older people in all fields and combat ageism and discrimination.
14. What positive examples are there of technology being used to enhance democracy?
The use of postal voting has been very helpful for people in care situations. Now the technology must move on to allow people being cared for (either in their own home or in a registered care setting) to engage actively in political debate.
I would be happy to expand upon any of the above points.
Professor Martin Green OBE
Chief Executive: Care England