Current E-Bulletin - AT Policy News Bulletin No. 125, March 2014


In this month's bulletin: commissioning specialised disability equipment services, developing integrated community services which include AT, and a strategy for AT skills in the social care workforce.


  1. Housing Services
  2. Mobility and Transport
  3. Connected Health and Care
  4. Specialised Healthcare Services
  5. Healthcare
  6. Integrated Care
  7. Social Care
  8. Services for Older People
  9. Services for People with Dementia
  10. Rights for Disabled People
  11. Sport for Disabled People
  12. Welfare Reform
  13. Services for Children and Young People
  14. Events
  15. News in Brief

1. Housing Services

National housing charity Care and Repair England has received Big Lottery funding for a project that connects older people with a dilemma about their housing and care with another older person who has been through a similar situation. An older person who is wondering how they are going to be able to manage in their current home can also ask their local Care and Repair home improvement agency for advice and practical help with repairs and adaptations.

Three short films, jointly commissioned by Skills for Care with the Housing LIN (Learning and Information Network), demonstrate how housing, care and support staff in three different organisations work together to deliver tailored care and support across a range of homely environments.

Back to top

2. Mobility and Transport

RESMAG reports that the National Wheelchair Managers Forum has highlighted to the APLLG (Associate Parliamentary Limb Loss Group) the need for special arrangements for funding high specification specialised seating and wheelchairs for veterans, similar to the arrangements for the supply of high specification prosthetic limbs.

The government’s £17 million Specialised Vehicles Fund, which is administered by the charity Motability, helps people with serious disabilities and wheelchair users get around by making complex adaptations to their vehicles. Mike Penning, Minister of State for Disabled People, visited a vehicle adaptations firm to see how the investment was being spent.

Back to top

3. Connected Health and Care

The Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology has published a note on UK e-health, telehealth and telecare initiatives and the role these services might play in future.

The Health KTN (Knowledge Transfer Network) has published the report Communicating Connected Health which identifies significant opportunities for connected health organisations to use marketing and PR strategies to solve the challenges they are currently facing.

Carers UK has launched the Jointly App , which is available to anyone who is a carer. It offers secure group messaging, a sharable calendar, reminders and contacts. It allows the user to invite a circle of users whom they wish to assist in co-ordinating care.

Ability Magazine reports that the charity Age UK is selling a system that provides older people with easy access to the internet. Breezie, developed by That Device Company, consists of a Samsung tablet and an online support service. It is customised at purchase with settings based on an individual’s interests and gives a nominated trusted relative or friend the ability to sign-in remotely, set-up accounts and add contacts.

The Telecare Services Association provides the secretariat for the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Telehealth. The Chair of the group is John Pugh MP.

For more information please contact Loretta MacInnes at the TSA.

The Health Service Journal reports that BT, which serves 12,000 users of telecare and telehealth services in Cornwall, intends to use the county as a base for all its future telemonitoring work in England.

E-Health Insider reports that a memorandum of understanding signed by the US and UK will help to create the world’s largest single market for health care apps.

Back to top

4. Specialised Healthcare Services

NHS England, which is responsible for commissioning specialised health care services, has launched a three-month consultation on changes made to some of its specialised services specifications, including the specification for prosthetics services. Specialised services, consultation page.

RESMAG reports that the Associate Parliamentary Limb Loss Group has published the latest figures from the Prosthetics Panel on prosthetic limb funding for veterans.

Communication Matters has provided a link to the draft service specification for augmentative and alternative (AAC) services, which describes the remit of the services, the referral criteria, and the close collaboration which is expected between specialised and local services.

More about the commissioning of specialised disability equipment services by NHS England here.

NHS England has published details setting out how it will play its part in delivering commitments set out in the UK Strategy for Rare Diseases.

The statement of intent will be used to inform the development of NHS England’s five-year strategy for specialised services.

Back to top

5. Healthcare

According to a report on emergency hospital admissions from the Commons Public Accounts Committee, the structure of financial incentives in the NHS is not helping to ensure patients are treated without coming to A & E.

A report by the Nuffield Trust on the NHS payment system in England finds that the structure of incentives does little to support policies to shift care out of the hospital setting. and a second report suggests possible reforms - NHS payment reform: lessons from the past and directions for the future.

On the first anniversary of the publication of the report of the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust Public Inquiry (The Francis Inquiry), research by the Nuffield Trust has found that hospital trusts have responded to its key themes, including the importance of openness, adequate staffing levels and a patient-centred culture.

The Department of Health and NHS England have published an agreement on how they will work together to carry out their responsibilities.

Back to top

6. Integrated Care

According to the latest annual report on health and social care expenditure from the Commons Health Committee, the NHS in England has made the ‘straightforward savings’, but ‘the transformation of care that will be required to make the NHS sustainable in the future ... has yet to take place’. The Committee welcomes the government’s emphasis on integrating care, switching funding from acute health services towards community-based services and social care, but points out that this will require reconfiguration of services. It calls for a stronger role for health and wellbeing boards to support these changes and for these not to be impeded by competition law. The Committee is concerned about pressures on resources across the whole system and it repeats last year’s recommendation that the current level of real terms funding for social care should be ring-fenced.

NHS England has published guidance on commissioning and providing an integrated care pathway for frail older people, which explains how multi-disciplinary community teams, including nurses and allied health professionals, can safely assess and manage people at home. The guidance recommends the use of assistive technology as ‘part of the menu of options in place for patients to effectively self-manage their long-term condition’.

The King’s Fund has published a report calling for a new pattern of community services for older people and people with long-term conditions to prevent hospital admissions and reduce hospital stays. Multidisciplinary teams based around primary care would work with specialist services to offer patients a co-ordinated service focused on rehabilitation, discharge and admission prevention.

A complementary report from the King’s Fund calls for a radical shift in general practice towards federations of practices able to work on the scale required for them to lead the integration of community services, working with multidisciplinary teams in ‘family care networks’.

The Labour Party has confirmed its policies to integrate NHS and social care services (‘whole person care’), without structural reorganisation, but with an enhanced role for health and wellbeing boards. A report by an independent commission led by Sir John Oldham proposes a single multidisciplinary care team for older people and those with long-term conditions, with more emphasis on prevention and keeping people away from unnecessary hospital stays. Services should include falls prevention services, aids and adaptations, and ‘smart technologies to support people in managing their own care and informing their decisions’.

Welcoming the report, Labour leader Ed Miliband said: ‘It would be better to pay £50 installing a grab rail in someone’s home rather than £14,000 treating someone with a broken hip’.

The government’s £3.8 billion Better Care Fund (formerly the Integration Transformation Fund) is a single pooled budget to support health and social care services in England to work more closely together in local areas.

The Scottish Parliament has passed the Public Bodies (Joint Working) (Scotland) Bill. The Bill sets out the legislative framework for integrating health and social care in Scotland. More information here.

Back to top

7. Social Care

Skills for Care and Development, the sector skills council for social care and children's services, has begun a two-year project to develop a national learning strategy for AT skills in the care workforce. It believes that: ‘Assistive Technology (AT) is a growing and important part of supporting people to stay independent and well in their own home, and the workforce needs to develop new skills and knowledge for new tasks, with potential new roles and new styles of service delivery to ensure that assistive technology is used effectively’. The project will produce AT 'knowledge and skills sets' and work with employers to give them the confidence to increase their investment in workforce development for AT. A network of AT 'champions' is being established, who will help in shaping the work of the project and raising the profile of AT. More about the project (and a learning strategy for electronic assistive technologies) here.

If you would like to become an AT champion, please contact:

According to the report The Future Care Workforce by the International Longevity Centre-UK, the adult social care sector in England will need to add approximately 1 million workers by 2025 in response to population ageing and the implied increase in the numbers of people with disabilities.

Back to top

8. Services for Older People

According to a report from Age UK, Care in Crisis 2014, spending on social care services for older people in England has dropped by at least £769 million since 2010, as councils restrict support to the most vulnerable. 

The Assisted Living Innovation Platform has published four scoping reports as part of the Technology Strategy Board’s ‘Long Term Care Revolution’ programme:

The status of housing provisions for older adults in the UK and other EU countries which outlines the case for a revolution in long term care and a move away from institutional care. It includes evidence about the views of older people and their carers in the UK, lessons from abroad, the implications for industry/providers and makes recommendations to government and industry leaders.

A study of innovatory models to support older people with disabilities in the Netherlands - According to this report on long-term care in the Netherlands, including housing options and the use of technology, older people remain disability-free for nearly half a decade longer in the Netherlands than in the UK even though the two countries are very similar in demographic profile and the experiences of the older generation.

Analysis of UK Long Term Care Market - This report examines the economic research on the current UK care market and analyses future market potential. It provides a business case to invest in new research, development and innovation for radical change in care provision, opening up the potential for significant market growth in both products and services for the UK market and beyond. The report finds that in 2012 the UK spent around £155 million on telecare, one of the largest expenditures in Europe, and this is expected to grow to £251 million in 2015.

The lived experience of older adults explores the lived experience of ten participants, some already in a long-term care setting, to help technology providers, service and design innovators and entrepreneurs place the needs of people at the centre of new solutions. 

Back to top

9. Services for People with Dementia

A blog by Dr Tom Christie shows how rapid growth in mobile apps is revolutionising dementia care.

The government has announced more measures to improve services for people with dementia. NHS England will invest £90 million in diagnosing two thirds of people with dementia by March 2015 and people diagnosed with dementia and their carers will be able to sign up to a new service on the NHS Choices website. Four major British businesses have also pledged staff to become ‘dementia friends’.

The Social Care Institute for Excellence has published a video about the Dementia Gateway, its online information resource.

Back to top

10. Rights for Disabled People

Disability Rights UK reports that the government has set up a new Inter-Departmental Ministerial Group on Disability, chaired by Mike Penning, Minister of State for Disabled People. The focus will be on helping local communities to become more inclusive and accessible, including transport and the built environment.

The government has published posters and campaign materials to be used by employers in its Disability Confident campaign, which encourages them to employ disabled people.

The Access to Elected Office for Disabled People Fund, which offers grants of between £250 and £40,000 to disabled people who are planning to stand for election, will be extended to help cover the 2015 General Elections. A Press release can be found here.

Further information about Access to Elected Office for Disabled People Fund here.

Case studies of disabled people's personal stories in political life, as part of the Government’s Access to Elected Office for Disabled People Strategy can be viewed from their website.

It has been decided that the Disability Committee of the Equality and Human Rights Commission will end as a formal statutory committee in 2017. The Committee will carry out urgent recruitment of new members so that it is operating at full strength. 2014/15 is of particular importance as the UK will be examined on its compliance with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD). The Commission plans to build disability issues into its ‘long range strategic plans and immediate operational priorities’.

A report from Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights says that the Care Bill should be amended to ensure that all providers of publicly arranged or paid-for social care services are bound by the Human Rights Act. The Committee also calls for an amendment to give ‘concrete effect in UK law to the right to independent living’. Further information here.

The European Disability Forum has published its manifesto for the European Parliament elections in May. Proposals include making goods and services accessible for all through:

  • the European Accessibility Act, EU legislation on the accessibility of goods and services in the EU internal market;
  • the proposed EU Directive on the accessibility of public websites;
  • accessibility of transport services and infrastructure.

Back to top

11. Sport for Disabled People

The 2014 Paralympic Winter Games are being held in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi between the 7th and the 16th of March 2014. 

Great Britain is competing in the alpine skiing and wheelchair curling. To begin the celebrations, the first-ever Paralympic Heritage Flame was lit on 1 March in a special ceremony at Stoke Mandeville Stadium, the birthplace of the Paralympic movement. More news on the British Paralympics Association and Channel 4 websites.

An article in Able Magazine discusses the background to the Winter Paralympics, including the situation for disabled people in Russia. 

Back to top

12. Welfare Reform

The government estimates that 63% of those affected by the spare room subsidy or 'bedroom tax’ are disabled. According to a report by the Papworth Trust, disabled people are losing out on the discretionary payments which are available, including disabled people living in adapted homes.

Two thirds of housing association tenants affected by the bedroom tax cannot find the money to pay their rents, according to research from the National Housing Federation

The personal independence payment is a new non-means-tested benefit to support disabled people with their daily living and mobility costs, which is replacing disability living allowance for working age people. Changes in mobility criteria could affect access to Motability vehicles. A report from the National Audit Office says that problems with the assessment process are leading to long and uncertain delays for claimants.

For people who are ill or disabled, employment and support allowance offers financial support for those unable to work and help for those potentially able to. Work capability assessments were introduced in 2008 to determine who should receive employment and support allowance. BBC News reports that the private company Atos is looking for an early exit from its contract to deliver these assessments, which is due to expire in August 2015. Four out of ten cases which go to appeal are upheld, but Atos claims it is the nature of the tests they have to conduct on behalf of the government which is to blame.

According to Counting the Cuts, a new report from the Centre for Welfare Reform on the impact of government spending cuts, disabled people on low incomes face cuts four times larger than average.

The House of Commons debated a motion tabled by backbenchers on 27 February calling for an assessment of the cumulative impact of the government's welfare reforms on sick and disabled people and demanding an immediate end to work capability assessments. The motion was based on a petition from the War On Welfare (WOW) campaign

Speakers ranged widely across the different reforms, with contributions from backbenchers which included problems experienced by their constituents. Although the motion was passed, Minister for Disabled People Mike Penning ruled out implementing its demands, but offered to work with stakeholders to reduce problems. Watch the debate and read the transcript here.

A summary on the Disability News Service website is also available.

According to Carers UK’s Caring & Family Finances Inquiry, families caring for older, disabled or ill people face a £1 billion cut to financial help in the next four years. Costs faced by families with caring responsibilities include the costs of disability-related spending like care services, equipment, cleaning products and home adaptations.

Responding to the major changes to the benefits system, the spinal injury charity Aspire has launched a new welfare benefits advice service:

You can pre-order the new edition of ‘Disability Rights Handbook’ from Disability Rights UK.

Disability Rights UK’s free guide to claiming personal independence payment has been updated and is free to download

People off sick for more than four weeks are to be offered advice to get them back to work more quickly under a government scheme to start later this year. The Health and Work Service, which will cover England, Wales and Scotland, will offer non-compulsory medical assessments and treatment plans. It will be run by the private sector and paid for by scrapping compensation to employers for statutory sick pay. A BBC report featuring views from the government, opposition and a TUC representative is available to view online.

Back to top

13. Services for Children and Young People

When the Children and Families Bill becomes law later this year, it will include a new duty on school governing bodies to make arrangements to support pupils with medical conditions. Individual healthcare plans will have to consider potential needs, including equipment and environmental issues, and the level of support needed. The Department for Education is consulting on draft guidance for governing bodies, parents, service providers and other stakeholders. 

For pupils with special educational needs (SEN), this guidance will complement the SEN code of practice which is being developed. More on the SEN reforms here.

Carers UK has welcomed a government amendment to the Children and Families Bill which includes new rights for parents of disabled children in new rights for carers.

According to a survey by the disability charity Scope, six in ten parents of disabled children say their son or daughter has been unable to access youth clubs, play groups and other local activities, because they are disabled. Mumsnet, the UK’s biggest website for parents, and Scope are calling on councils to do more to make such services inclusive.

The government is consulting on a draft strategy to reduce child poverty.

Back to top

14. Events

Assist UK’s Conference and AGM will take place on Thursday 3rd April at Lion of Vienna Suite, Reebok Stadium, Horwich, Bolton. The theme will be ‘Personal Independence Payment - Moving Forward’.

‘Equality In Communication For All’ is the theme for 2014 Deaf Awareness Week (DAW) which takes place 19th – 25th of May 2014.

Delegate bookings are now open for this year’s National Association Equipment Providers (NAEP) national annual conference for the community equipment sector on 17th and 18th of  June 2014.

Communication Matters Roadshows give attendees the opportunity to catch up with advances in AAC (augmentative and alternative communication). These product demonstration days, presented by leading suppliers of communication aids, equipment, software and symbol systems, are open to people who use AAC (16+), parents, carers and professionals. The Road Shows are free of charge, but you must book a place in advance. 

A full list of UK Assistive technology Events is available from the FAST website.

Back to top

15. News in Brief

AAC users in Dumfries and Galloway have created and starred in a short video. Feel free to share and download this film and if you have any questions, please contact Megan Hughes, Speech and Language Therapist / AAC Project Co-ordinator, Lockerbie Health Centre, Victoria Gardens, Lockerbie, DG11 2BJ. Tel: 01576 205 537 

Many people with sight loss are unable to control their heating or cut their fuel bills because heating dials and switches are too difficult to use, according to research from the Research Institute for Consumer Affairs (Rica) and the sight loss charity Thomas Pocklington Trust. A new guide, Choosing Central Heating Controls and Saving Energy offers practical advice on choosing the right products.

An article by former and current staff of the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) provides a comprehensive overview of the regulatory process for medicines and medical devices.

Back to top