Targeted support and telecare can reduce staff input in services for people with learning disabilities


The need for appropriately supported accommodation for people with learning disabilities continues to rise as people naturally move from family homes to their own.  Controlling costs of support has always been a major concern for the paying authorities, but this is particularly true in the current climate of financial constraint. They key challenge is how to deliver high quality service outcomes in the most cost efficient manner.

This study set out to look at the quality of life consequences of living with less intensive staff support in a variety of settings as a result of the provision of more targeted staff allocation along with telecare. Telecare refers to the remote delivery of services to people in their own home or community setting through telecommunications and computerised services, for example sensors, alerts and other devices which provide remote monitoring to alert supporters to emergencies, lifestyle changes etc. to either trigger a response from staff or to shut down equipment or prevent hazards

This study included 91 people living in 33 settings. 63 of the participants in 25 of the settings received the support/telecare intervention at staggered intervals. The researchers collected data on things like quality of care, and objective lifestyle indicators. The data were collected at four points in time over 2 years. The impact of the intervention was evaluated by the ressarchers using a within-group comparison methodology over the time period. Results  They found that when comparing pre- and post-intervention data, staffing levels were significantly reduced by 23%. In the settings where there was no intervention, there was no change in staffing levels. They found improvements in one of the health indicators they measured in the setting where there was no intervention, with one improving following the intervention. However, there were no significant changes in any other of the lifestyle indicators.

The authors conclude that the combination of targeted support and telecare in the settings involved did not have any adverse short-term affect on the quality of life of the participants, but it did reduce staff input. They suggest therefore that telecare interventions may have a role to play in managing future community based support environments for people with learning disabilities. They point out however that this was a small study and that further research would be needed to more fully explore how such efficiencies may be achieved in practice.

Targeted Support and Telecare in Staffed Housing for People with Intellectual Disabilities: Impact on Staffing Levels and Objective Lifestyle Indicators, Perry, J. et al., in Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities, 25: 60–70.

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John Northfield

After qualifying as a social worker, John worked in community learning disability teams before getting involved in a number of long-stay hospital closure programmes, working to develop individual plans for people moving into their own homes. He worked for BILD, helping to develop the Quality Network and was editorial lead for the NHS electronic library learning disabilities specialist collection. This led him to found the Learning Disabilities Elf site with Andre Tomlin as a way of making the evidence accessible to practitioners in health and social care. Most recently he has worked as part of Mencap's national quality team and also been involved in a number of national website developments, including the General Medical Council's learning disabilities site.

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