The societal challenge we are addressing
Around one-quarter of the European population will be aged 65 and over by the middle of this century. This great achievement in longevity has also brought about multiple challenges for European social welfare and financial systems. While access to long-term care (LTC) for older populations is one of the social benefits that Europe takes pride in, due to barriers, including digital, cultural, bureaucratic and geographic, access to these services is not optimal. Furthermore, most social services systems have yet to fully enter the digital era and embrace the benefits offered by technology.
This situation affects all stakeholders involved in LTC services, but especially service users and social service professionals. From the point of view of older adults, their families and professional caregivers, many social service systems across Europe seem rigid, non- transparent, and hard to access, and generate a bureaucratic burden and frustration. Furthermore, the system is lacking in giving tools for social inclusion and adaptability to a vulnerable populations, such as people at risk of social exclusion. From the point of view of social service professionals, populations in need are not always easy to access and communicate with, and the provision of ongoing social support and monitoring is challenging. In terms of government spending, additional expenditures are generated due to complex bureaucratic processes, clerical errors and user errors; therefore, more efficient systems that represent better value for money are needed.
As European societies are ageing, it becomes critical that our systems and services adapt to the needs of older adults and are able to provide accessible and high quality LTC services that promote values such as equitable access to services and ageing-in-place. European governments need to ensure that their ageing populations are valued assets to society and the economy, and to encourage social care professionals to work with technology for the benefit of service users. Furthermore, these efforts should be directed towards the goal of promoting an integrated care approach wherein health care and LTC services are interlinked.
Our response to the challenge
The SoCaTel project proposes an approach that will cater to the needs of the growing ageing populations in Europe by improving the accessibility, responsiveness, efficiency, transparency and transferability of social and care services.
SoCaTel aims to address gaps in the area of social welfare and social services by introducing a multi- stakeholder platform for the co-creation, and later deployment, of long-term care services.
The project will incorporate into its processes the key values of user-centred design, accessibility, transparency, accountability, civic participation and social inclusion.
The SoCaTel platform will be designed and conceived through a co-creation process, which will allow and encourage users to interact with ICT in a straightforward way. SoCaTel will address the current lack of coordination among primary and community services, hospitals, and other care providers, in order to make accessing and using LTC services easier for older adults and care professionals.
Co-creation gives people the opportunity to express their needs and to make decisions about how they would like to receive and provide care services. Although technological innovations are an important tool for improving older people’s lives, they cannot be imposed. With a co-creation process, citizens have more choice, control and flexibility in using ICT solutions, and they are part of the decision-making process in designing and implementing services. By making the access to social care systems across Europe more transparent, responsive and open to public feedback, the efficiency of the LTC system can also be improved.
How we will go about addressing the challenge
SoCaTel integrates a range of stakeholders and citizens involved in the process of co-creating useful, feasible and cost efficient ICT solutions, using a bottom-up process.
During the project, services pertaining to the provision of LTC to older adults will be co-created and piloted in four countries (Finland, Ireland, Spain and Hungary), representing different social care models and different legislative frameworks.
SoCaTel will create, implement and pilot a multi-module and multi-stakeholder co-creation platform, which fosters ageing-in-place in a friendly environment and community.
The SoCaTel platform will improve end-users’ access to LTC services according to their needs, and will empower service users and their representatives.
Following a quadruple-helix (QH) approach, service users, care professionals, researchers and innovators will collaborate throughout the process: from design through to development and testing, and onto implementation - facilitating the co-creation of novel services to address emerging needs and opportunities, while encouraging bottom-up innovation.
Moreover, via communication, exploitation and dissemination activities, as well as a series of Hackathons to bring forth new and innovative ideas, SoCaTel will be scalable and replicable to locations all over Europe.
The project comprises of three main stages, fully incorporating the QH approach:
- The design and creation of a digital co-creation platform via a set of co-creation workshop and relying on off-the-shelf open source components, as well as newly created ones;
- Co-creation of public services within the realm of long-term care services, involving hackathons with innovators, and using face-to-face co-creation methodologies as well as the digital SoCaTel co-creation platform, with the aim of developing a new technology more adapted to citizens’ needs;
- Service publishing and impact assessment on the open source platform, supported by extensive change management activities.
Each of our pilot sites will involve a co-creation phase and a later service deployment phase in which the co-created service will be deployed in a real-life environment.
SoCaTel will deliver:
1) an Open Source co-creation platform adapted to the needs and preferences of key stakeholders involved in long-term care,
2) a set of improved long-term care services co- created following the QH approach and using SoCaTel platform, and
3) a set of best practices and methodologies to promote and support the transferability, scalability and replicability of SoCaTel’s outcomes, while maintaining its core values.
To ensure its long lasting impact, SoCaTel will also create and release
4) a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) to be used by higher education institutes training the next generation of social care professionals and policy makers.
SoCaTel’s service deployment platform will be an open source and fully configurable platform, allowing different actors – including public administration – to design and deliver new services.
SoCaTel will launch an accessible service design generated through the collaborative co-creation process among service users and professionals. SoCaTel will focus on a needs-led care (bottom-up approach) rather than a service-led care (top-down approach), offering an integrated tool of care services, accessible for people with care needs and/or at risk of social exclusion. SoCaTel will improve care service users’ satisfaction and be cost-effective, while simplifying the paperwork requirements and thereby reducing the bureaucratic burden on citizens and professionals.