The Alpha Daughter project examined the feasibility of supplementing support local government provides for elderly citizens and family carers with services run by commercial organisations - in particular large retailers.
The aim of the project was to determine whether it was possible to develop partnerships between local government and commercial organisations and if so which services it was practical to share.
The project focused on the requirements of the family carer whom is supporting their elderly parents. This is a growing demographic, which is likely to be attractive to commercial companies. It is also a demographic that will put significant pressure on the budgets of local authorities during the coming decade.
The Alpha Daughter project took as its reference point an earlier project run by Helen Hamlyn Centre and Orange Mobil an focussed on three key areas; health and well-being, transport and financial advice.
Although the Alpha Daughter project was carried out independently of any government body it was designed to test certain aspects of the UK Government's 'Big Society' policy, which attempts to encourage non-government bodies to take on some of the tasks currently undertaken by local authority and central government agencies.
The project was also carried out against a background of reduced expenditure by local government due to budget cuts.
Description of target users and groups
Family carers (Alpha Daughters)
Within the baby boomer generation (people born between 1947 and 1965) there is s demographic that is becoming increasingly important to consumer goods and services suppliers. The Alpha Daughter is providing some level of care for an ageing parent or parents while at the same time looking after her own immediate family and, in many cases still pursuing a career. Local authorities and government agencies provide the Alpha Daughter with a degree of support as they recognise that family carers can leverage the efforts of social care and healthcare providers who supply services to the elderly. However the Alpha Daughter has become a focus point of spending within the family unit, mirroring the working mother (alpha mom) during the 1960s who made purchases on behalf of her children and husband and influenced up to 70%, by value, of the purchasing decisions made by families. As the Alpha Daughter's parents lose their independence and require more care she will be making decisions on their behalf.
Description of the way to implement the initiative
Seek partners for local authorities within the private sector who might be able to provide support for family carers.
Carry out interviews with both local authorities and commercial organisations to establish areas where there is common ground and a basis for partnership in the development of services
Assess various incentives that might encourage private companies to become involved in the support of family carers.
Technology choice: Proprietary technology
Although technology will not be deployed until the services have been developed it is envisaged a web based application, which is already being developed to manage a CarePortal based health monitoring system, will be extended as a platform for a range of other services, such as transport booking and financial service management.
Services will be accessible an iPhone or other smart mobile device and will be extended so that key features of the 'Alpha Daughter' service can be used on tablet based devices such as the Ipad, which older consumers may find easier to use that either a mobile phone or a PC.
Applications that manage transport, access to online shopping and fitness and diet have been identified and would be licensed from respective vendors and incorporated into the Alpha Daughter service either as Iphone apps or web based services. The personal health record would be based on Microsoft Healthvault.
Main results, benefits and impacts
Benefits of a service supported by both a commercial company and a local authority will be difficult to assess until working relation between the two can be established however it is envisaged the benefits will lay in the following areas:
There are straightforward tasks that the Alpha Daughter carries out when she is providing day-to-day care and support for her parent or parents. She will be sharing some of these tasks with siblings and local authority backed organisations so there is also a high degree of coordination involved. She will provide moral support for her parents and also make decisions relating to what they are and are not still able to do for themselves. She will be well aware that keeping her parents active and ensure they look after themselves will postpone the need for more advanced care.
Most of these basic tasks can be carried out with the aid of a simple online organiser and diary service that enables the Alpha Daughter to monitor events and build a database of trusted suppliers of services. This service would be accessed via a laptop PC, smart phone or an iPad style device. The Alpha Daughter would register as a user for this service. The service would also incorporate communications and social networking tools that enable the Alpha Daughter's parent or parents to remain socially engaged and economically active.
For the Alpha Daughter care steps up from basic to advanced when neither of her parents can carry on driving. At this point she will be under pressure to either provide or organise transport for her parents. The service would contain an application that enable the Alpha Daughter to book transport for her parents either with a dial-a-ride service or a volunteer transport scheme. The degree to which the commercial organisation wanted to become involved in transport for its elderly customers would determine the exact nature of the service. At the most basic level the commercial organisation could simply brand the transport booking application that booked rides with local authority backed schemes. However the commercial organisation may wish to develop relationships with transport providers who were willing to use out of town stores as hubs in their smart transport networks. The second option would have the advantage of maintain footfall in the store amongst elderly shoppers who can no longer drive and provide the opportunity to market additional services to ageing consumers.
Her parent's inability to drive will be due to a medical condition and many of the journeys that the Alpha Daughter has to arrange will be to doctor's appointments. At this point the Alpha Daughter will also become more heavily involved in monitoring her parent's healthcare and the service will have a patient diary, medication reminder and simple health monitoring applications that link to an online personal health record. These applications will help the Alpha Daughter manage her parent's health and assist her when discussing her parent's condition with GPs and hospital consultants.
If the parent's condition worsens, becoming chronic and long term, or they are recovering from an operation they will be supplied with a CarePortal and access the system via this rather than an iPad or smart phone. The CarePortal is a paid for application the patient subscribes to for the duration of their illness and is an alternative to moving out of their home into long term care.
Â This is a broad category of services that encompasses both the mental and physical well being of ageing consumers, which the service will address through support for social interaction, fitness advice and suggested diets. These are all areas of concern for the Alpha Daughter not only in relation to her parents but also because of her own changing attitude to the impact of ageing on herself and her more immediate family. This opens up a market for fitness devices, special food lines, holiday and other leisure activities. It also lends itself to the commercial organisation becoming a social centre both online and in store.
Return on investmentReturn on investment: Not applicable / Not available
Track record of sharing
All local authorities who contributed to the survey on transport for elderly people were provided with a copy of the final report on the status and use made of services such as dial-a-ride, volunteer transport and other forms of transport supported by local authorities. This information was also shared with actors from within the motor industry - in particular companies researching smart transport systems and car sharing schemes.
Other areas of research, such as 'meals on wheels' services and health and well-being services are ongoing and research will be shared when applicable.
Some services, such as transport for the elderly, are so fragmented that it is proving difficult to design and over arching system that a commercial company could interface with at a national level.
Although many charities and local authorities already recognise the importance of family carers, and use them to channel care and support services to the elderly, commercial companies have yet to recognise that this demographic is important in regard to its spending power and the influence it exerts over the expenditure of ageing parents and other family members.
Local authorities tend to regard commercial companies as potential competitors rather than potential partners and, especially during the current round of budget cuts, are reluctant to let commercial companies take on services, even those that the local authority no longer have the resources to adequately support, if this results in job losses amongst local government staff.
ÂScope: Local (city or municipality)