Mobility scooters would be fitted with GPS systems under the plans

Pensioners on mobility scooters ‘tracked by GPS’ under proposal to save care costs in Manchester

Excluisve by Amy Glendinning

August 24, 2011

 Mobility scooters would be fitted with GPS systems under the plans

Pensioners on mobility scooters could be tracked by satellite as part of radical plans to use technology to slash spending on social care.

The scooters would be fitted with GPS systems – with relatives able to log on to the internet to pinpoint their loved one if they became lost, confused or upset.

Town hall chiefs in Manchester are also looking at extending the practice of sending text messages to people with dementia to remind them to take medicine.

Under the current system, the reminders are usually delivered in person by a care worker visiting up to four times a day.

Elderly and disabled people could also be encouraged to use the internet to order their food and shopping rather than relying on social service staff.

The proposals are among a list of ideas being considered by the council as it seeks to use technology to help plug a £17m funding gap in adult care over the next two years.

Some £8.2m of savings have been identified so far – including reducing staff levels to ‘a minimum’, cutting by two-thirds the number of visits to people’s homes to assess their needs. The council says it wants to ‘think smart’ in order to provide the best possible service at a time when care budgets have been devastated by government cuts.

But Age Concern and the Manchester Carers Forum both slammed the move – saying technology was no replacement for face-to-face help.

In an open letter to council leader Sir Richard Leese, the two groups said: “Many of our older people experience a great deal of social isolation.

“Fewer visits and remote support will not help. We are particularly worried that some of the council ideas as to how they will reduce services, for example fewer visits and the use of assisted technology, will result in services that may not be sufficient to maintain people in their own homes.”

The plans to increase the use of technology are outlined in a council consultation document on the future of adult social care.

It also suggests increasing the bus fare for community transport from 40p to £3.50, cutting cleaning and laundry services, and requiring people to pay for equipment and home adapations that cost less than £25.

The council has already begun sending the ‘reminder’ texts to some dementia sufferers instead of using home visits.

It says: “Some people have told us they prefer this because it promotes their independence.”

The consultation period ended on Monday, with town hall chiefs now looking at responses to the ideas.

Glynn Evans, the executive member for adult services, said: “We were faced with a very challenging financial situation earlier this year where the council had to make huge savings across the board.

“We look after a large number of vulnerable and elderly people who need support and care, and we remain committed to ensuring that we provide the best possible service, despite the challenging circumstances.”