Managing Director of Centrica Hive
For the three million people in the UK who both work and are informal carers, balancing caring responsibilities alongside a job is a daily challenge. Sadly, a lack of adequate support means that one in five carers are forced to stop working altogether.
There are many ways that businesses can provide support to carers, from offering flexible employment policies that help carers manage their responsibilities alongside their work to providing networks for colleagues to come together and share their experiences.
This is something we have developed in partnership with Carers UK over the past 15 years. We are now working with them to identify what other opportunities there are to support this group who make up a significant proportion of our workforce.
Smart home tech can be very reassuring
One area we are increasingly focused on is how smart home technology can provide the reassurance that helps carers manage both their caring and their working life. This is something that is particularly personal to me, as my mother was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2011 and I class myself as an informal carer.
My mother is fiercely independent, but I worry that sometimes she could put herself in unsafe situations without realising. Simple tasks such as boiling the kettle can have serious consequences due to her difficulties with tremors.
I want my mum to feel independent for as long as is safe
Sadly, one of the inevitabilities with this disease means there will come a time when she cannot live independently. However, with the help of smart home technology, together we are delaying this for as long as possible. For example, I use a number of Hive sensors and plugs around my mother’s home, which, when viewed through the app, allows me to check in anytime to see if my mum is up, had her cup of tea or left the house.
Importantly, it is not a tool to replace in-person care. For me, I still see my mother just as often, and she still has the same care network around her – it just means that I don’t have to worry, knowing that she has returned home safely after a walk in the winter, and she has put on the kettle like normal in the morning.
Carers’ tech helps the whole family feel connected
Smart home technology can keep families, friends and loved ones connected more easily, bringing even greater peace of mind for carers and those they care for and enabling people to live independently in their own homes for longer. That’s why I believe this is an important area for further innovation.
However, progress will be dependent on businesses (like ourselves) prioritising product and service development. I think we are just at the start of the journey to unlock how smart technology can help one of society’s most pressing issues and we look forward to fully exploring the potential it will play in supporting the growing caring community.