Eurofound has published a report detailing the impact digitalization is having on social services. The report examines the use of digital technologies in social services and the policies that promote digital transformation. It looks at some of the main issues involved in implementing digitalization strategies and using digital technologies in social services and some of the measures that have been put in place to overcome barriers. The overall aim is to close the knowledge gap regarding the opportunities and risks associated with technological change in this area.

It is worth noting that the report was researched and produced before the outbreak of COVID-19. Some of the key findings include:

  • Robots are used in health and social care to monitor and interact with older people and assist them with cognitive tasks. Robots also help carers by providing physical assistance (for example, lifting patients). The costs of robots, safety concerns and opposition from carers and the general public have limited their use in social care.
  • The Internet of Things has been used in the homes of older people for monitoring purposes (for example, fall detection) and to facilitate cognitive and interactive tasks. The use of this technology and telecare in the future will be facilitated by the reduction in costs of wearable devices and the increasing familiarity of the population with these technologies.
  • Care provided with the aid of robots, telepresence and wearable devices can also reduce the risk of contagion and ensure the continuity of care in times of confinement, lockdown and physical/social distancing.

Most of the examples of digital technologies revealed in the report are in the long-term care sector. Robots are used to assist older people and persons with disabilities, helping them with physical, cognitive and interaction. These technologies can also reduce the risk of contagion and ensure the continuity of care in times of confinement, lockdown and/or social distancing. Older people are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19, and therefore nursing homes have restricted visitors

Similarly, Eurodiaconia members embraced technology with the outbreak of the pandemic in long-term care facilities. Due to restrictions during lockdowns, most residents were provided with tablets to maintain communication with their families. However, there were reported challenges reaching some children who did not have internet nor computers. The digital divide has become more transparent, thus increasing the gap in social equalities. EU must ensure that no one is left behind in digital transformation. You can read our report on the impact of the pandemic on social services here.

For more information and the complete report, visit Eurofound’s website.