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Tackling loneliness with robotics: Bristol firm to provide care robots for Cornwall Housing

Zoe Fawcett
Authored by Zoe Fawcett
Posted: Tuesday, May 10, 2022 - 10:23

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

Cornwall Housing Ltd has signed a 12-month deal with Bristol-based Service Robotics to provide ten of its GenieConnect® robots for use by residents who need access to 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 ten GenieConnect® robots between September and November last year. The trial reported far-reaching benefits of breaking down communications barriers particularly in properties where some adults are being supported to live independently who may be at risk of feeling alone and isolated.

The robots will 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 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 them. 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® 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 access streaming services. He also uses the mood capture feature which checks in with him to ask how he feels helping to track his mental health status.

53% of disabled people report feeling lonely, rising to 77% for young disabled people. [Source: Sense's report, ‘Someone cares if I'm not there’]. 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 end May.

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