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Robotics in Social Care

Using robotics has been suggested as one way to help improve the quality of UK social care and manage increasing pressures on services. This POSTnote describes robotic technology and outlines the main ways it has been developed for use in social care. It reviews evidence on the impact of robotics on the costs and quality of social care and its workforce, and explores the main ethical, social, and regulatory challenges to its use in social care.

Overview

  • Technology is expected to be a theme in the Government’s upcoming policy paper on adult social care in England.
  • A wide range of robotic technologies can be used in social care from automated vacuum cleaners to robots resembling humans or animals. Few are used currently in social care and further research is needed to assess their impact in practice.
  • Robotics can provide physical, social, and cognitive assistance and a small number of studies report positive impacts on users’ mobility, mental health, and cognitive skills.
  • Using more robotics may save up to £6 billion through automating some tasks, but there are concerns about affordability, and effects on the quality of care and staffing.
  • Ethical, legal, and regulatory issues include impacts on users’ autonomy and privacy and questions over the use and ownership of data.