The Department of Health has published the annual report on research and development work relating to assistive technology for 2013-14. The report provides information about the wide range of government funded projects supporting the development, introduction and evaluation of assistive technology that might increase the range of activities, independence and wellbeing of older people and people with disabilities. It is a valuable resource both in terms of demonstrating to Parliament the progress made in research and development work in assistive technology and in supporting and stimulating the market for equipment, which enhances the dignity and independence of people with disabilities and older people.
The Department of Health recently made the decision to end the independent production of this report, and to dramatically scale back its scope. There was no consultation made ahead of this decision, and the Department has failed to provide evidence of an impact assessment. There is concern amongst MPs and peers, and the AT sector more broadly, that a scaled back report which does not cover the breadth of progress in the sector would:
- be unwelcome at a time when properly supporting the adoption of technology to deliver care addresses the budgetary and social challenges posed by an ageing population;
- be unwelcome at a time when the need for support for people with disabilities to enter the workplace, rather than rely on benefits, is at an all-time high; and
- see a lowering of the standard of reporting, which would run a real risk of lowering the outcomes for people who rely on assistive technology, many of whom are vulnerable