Assistive Technology refers to products, equipment and systems that enhance learning, working and daily living for persons with disabilities, older people and those with gradual functional decline.

It can be low-tech or high-tech, ranging from communication boards to special-purpose computers; all designed to help people who have difficulty speaking, typing, remembering, seeing, hearing, learning, walking and many other things.

In the absence of Assistive Technology, people often find themselves isolated and excluded with increasing barriers to re-entering society.

Assistive Technology removes many of these barriers, enabling people to live healthier, more productive and independent lives. With assistance, many more individuals can participate in education, the labour market and extended independent living.

The National Assistive Technologies Test-Bed is an ambitious and innovative project which combines the best in technological advancements with Adult Social Care. Sunderland City Council and the Digital Catapult North East and Tees Valley (NETV)have come together to deliver a nationally important shift and transform how those with needs are supported to live independently for longer.


A wealth of expertise from NHS (National Health Service) Digital and a number of participating local authorities are collectively informing the project, which is sponsored by Sunderland CCG (Clinical Commissioning Group) and the Local Government Association’s Social Care Digital Innovation Programme.

The National Assistive Technologies Test-Bed aims to:

  • Create a sustainable model for first class in-home care
  • Get the very best for service users, their carers and families
  • Keep people healthier and independent for longer
  • Be pioneers of new, innovative technology
  • Become innovators of an ‘Open Core’ system – an easy way to allow devices to send secure messages about end users to support staff and support systems
  • Be an internationally recognised vanguard of organisational efficiency

Having listened carefully to the needs of the local community, alongside experts’ opinions, four key themes that present significant challenges in supporting people to retain and improve their independence have been identified:

  • Moving around the home
  • Nutrition and hydration
  • Mood monitoring
  • Medication management

Improvements in these core areas will directly improve positive outcomes for individuals across the city.

Via the identification, procurement and deployment of connected devices to 120 homes, with the ambition to scale to up to 5,500 homes, to assist in overcoming these challenges. Simultaneously, the project will commission the development of a unique ‘Core’ – a pioneering digital platform which is able to communicate with and receive information from the connected devices.

Each service user’s individual needs will be carefully assessed and monitored by social care practitioners who will review dashboards showing real-time behaviours and patterns aligned to the four core themes.

This will ensure that the most appropriate package of services or care, to achieve the best possible outcomes and quality of life, is created for each individual.


Assistive Technology reduces the need for formal health and support services, long-term care and the work of caregivers. It also helps to avoid social exclusion and isolation often experienced by those requiring extra assistance.

Providing a better quality of life and enabling people to live more independently for longer, whilst delivering significant cost savings and reducing the demand on existing services, are key success measures of this project.

Crucially, the improved quality of life, wellbeing and peace of mind for the families of service users as a direct result of this scheme will bring comfort, control and safety to their daily lives.

Financial savings are also significant, and include financial reductions in individual care packages, reduced delays in service users entering residential/nursing care and a decrease in a care receiver’s own costs in commissioning care, supporting equipment and services.

These advantages coupled with a reduction in employee contact time spent in assessment, monitoring and administration, means that more time can be spent in dedicated care provision alongside a demonstrable effort to assist participating service users to remain in their own homes for longer.

Related Successes

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