Tech firm partners with Cornwall Housing to provide robots to help combat loneliness

Thursday 12th May 2022 4:00 pm
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Genie Connect robot helps those in need of support to access care staff when needed.
As well as helping those living independently to combat loneliness, the GenieConnect® robots system helps those in need of support to access the help of care staff when needed. (Picture: Service Robotics Limited )

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AS part of this year’s Mental Health Awareness week focusing on combatting loneliness, South West technology robotics firm Service Robotics is partnering with Cornwall Housing to show the positive impact robots can have in preventing isolation for people living independently in its homes.

Cornwall Housing Ltd has signed a 12-month deal with Bristol-based Service Robotics for the tech firm to provide 10 of its GenieConnect® robots for use by residents who normally need help from carers, loved ones and vital support services as part of its isolation prevention strategy.

The deal has been agreed following a successful two-month pilot programme which trialled the use of 10 GenieConnect® robots between September and November last year.

The trial reported far-reaching benefits from the robots of helping to break down communications barriers, particularly in properties where some adults were being given support to live independently but who may have been at risk of feeling alone and isolated.

The robots will now be used in a range of Cornwall Housing properties. Residents will be able to seek support and assistance easily and directly with general activities of daily living through basic voice commands.

The robots can also act as a personal companion by offering enhanced communications with carers and loved ones, known as the circle of care, a key element in combatting feelings of loneliness.

Commenting on the initiative, Rob Parkes, CEO and founder of Service Robotics, said: “Our GenieConnect® robots have been designed to offer valuable support for a range of tasks and offer easy access to speak to someone who can assist those people needing support.

“They also act as a friendly and supportive companion at a time when loneliness is at epidemic levels in the UK and has a dramatic impact on our mental health. This partnership with Cornwall Housing is showing how we can use technology to support people at risk of loneliness and in turn prevent deterioration in mental health.

“We are working with our clients to help them deliver more flexible and better-quality care to combat loneliness and isolation, enabling independent living for their clients and reducing demand on our country’s health and social care providers.”

Independent living service manager at Cornwall Housing Nyree Laugharne, who manages the initiative with Service Robotics, said; “This is a great initiative for our users who need support to be able to live independently, often on their own.

“The GenieConnect® trial showed us that our residents gained so much more than a way of accessing our support teams. We’re always looking for new ways to provide support and we know loneliness is a major issue for many people and this is one part of an overall effort to combat an issue which often goes hand in hand with a deterioration in mental health.”

Service Robotics is also working with care provider Cornwall Care to provide a GenieConnect® robot to one of its service users, Adam, who has learning disabilities.

Adam, who is in his late-thirties, has been using a GenieConnect® to help him remember to take medication and perform daily self-care tasks. He also uses the robot as a companion to talk to, to help him access entertainment media such as to tune into the radio or to access streaming services. He also uses the mood capture feature which checks in with him to ask how he feels, so helping care workers to track his mental health status.

Fifty three per cent of disabled people report feeling lonely, with this figure rising to 77% for young disabled people. [Source: Sense’s report, ‘Someone cares if I’m not there’].

In addition, 1.4 million older people in the UK are often lonely. Loneliness is a significant problem that is now widely acknowledged today. [Source: Age UK]

Service Robotics is currently running a crowd funding campaign via Crowdcube inviting the public to invest in the future of the company as it expands. The campaign has a target of £175,000 and closes at the end of May.

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