AI’s Answer to the Social Care Struggle

Rajiv Tanna
Rajiv Tanna
Birdie Carer App
  • Robots sound exciting and innovative, but other technologies, like AI, might provide more suitable, immediate solutions to the social care struggle.
  • “AI is not an unsupervised technology that dictates what people do. Rather, it is a tool that helps professionals better understand each care recipient’s needs,” says Rajiv Tanna, co-Founder and CPO, birdie.

Rajiv Tanna, co-Founder and CPO of homecare technology partner, birdie, discusses how Artificial Intelligence (AI) is ready to transform adult social care, but robots are not.


In April, scientists at Loughborough University revealed that they had been developing a robotic system to provide domestic care for elderly people. Simply put, the robot has been programmed to interact with older adults and perform a variety of tasks around the home. The project’s leader called this research “essential” to reducing the burden on healthcare systems, like the UK’s. 

Technological progress in robotics has fostered innovation in a variety of new sectors. In social care, the premise seems simple: healthcare organisations like the NHS lack staff to provide care. To fill the gap in the human workforce, these organisations could use advanced robotic systems instead. 

While this presents an apparently appealing solution, it’s worth considering the wider context of social care in the UK first. Robots sound exciting and innovative. But other technologies, like AI, might provide more suitable, immediate solutions that enhance human connections. 


The UK’s social care system has had a perennial lack of funding. Successive governments have delayed required reforms for years. Even now, as the sector plunges further towards crisis, the government continues to reduce funding. In April, the Department of Health and Social Care cut the £500 million it had pledged to the workforce in 2021 in two. 

But, despite the lack of government support, the UK’s population continues to grow older. More ageing adults needed care last year than ever before. And more will need it next year than they did this year. In 2021/22, almost two million older adults requested support, according to The King’s Fund’s Social Care 360 report. Just over 800,000 received it. 

In response to this, robotic carers might sound like a suitable solution to filling some of the 165,000 industry vacancies in 2022 (a rise of 55 percent from the previous year.) The problem is: robotic systems can’t solve the wide-ranging challenges care providers, care professionals and care recipients are currently facing. Nor are they ready for operational, widespread deployment. Eventually, they could complement care professionals in specific tasks such as lifting people. But, the social care sector needs a holistic solution that can be introduced now, not later. 

Even in the long term, those involved in the sector doubt the potential efficacy of these robots. Loneliness is already a widespread problem among the UK’s elderly population. Interacting with a robot, instead of a human, will only make that problem worse. Essentially, people want human-to-human contact, especially when they’re less mobile.

“AI is not an unsupervised technology that dictates what people do. Rather, it is a tool that helps professionals better understand each care recipient’s needs, and in turn, provide high quality care”

Rajiv Tanna, co-Founder and CPO, birdie


While robots may not provide the solution that the adult social care sector needs, another form of technology may be able to. AI has been attracting attention over the past six months as a result of the new, consumer-facing ‘generative AI’ platforms launched by several big tech companies.  

But AI, in truth, has been in use across a wide range of industries for years – and now it’s social care’s turn. In fact, the technology can improve experiences at every level – from care provider to care professional and care recipient.  

By digitising operations, care providers open an enormous wealth of opportunity for themselves and everyone they care for. The notes they collect on a daily basis can suddenly become useful in a way they never were on paper or in disparate, poorly managed documents. This data might relate to care professionals’ day-to-day activities, or care recipients’ individual needs – from medication schedules, incident reports, and visitation notes. 

By logging this information into a comprehensive, AI-powered platform, they will suddenly be able to unlock critical insights that would have likely gone unnoticed in paper-based logbooks. For example, the technology could enhance care providers’ care plans for an individual care recipient, based on their medical history and behaviours. So, if an older adult who suffered a cardiac arrest a few years ago regularly reports having a diet high in added fats or fried foods, the platform could proactively recommend making periodical cholesterol checks.  

Similarly, it could also automatically summarise care recipients’ individual needs and translate these reports into data-driven recommendations that can give care professionals the confidence to deliver proactive and preventative care efficiently to each individual care recipient. As a result, care providers can be better prepared to detect the early symptoms of a condition and receive suggestions on how to react, ultimately maintaining care recipients’ health outcomes and happiness for as long as possible. 

But there’s more to it. The technology could improve the human connection of care as well by equipping care professionals with auto-reminders of specific events that recipients care about, such as a favourite dish or wedding anniversary. It could also analyse care professionals’ and recipients’ individual profiles to optimise rotas and ensure greater continuity of care. This will not only help save time, but allow care professionals to make better decisions and deliver more personalised care to ageing adults.  

Of course, all of these improvements require access to sensitive data. As such, everything has to be secure and safe. But let’s remember that the social care sector already holds vast amounts of sensitive data – it’s just in paper logs and saved across cabinets. 

Essentially, AI represents an opportunity to improve risk controls whilst elevating experiences across every level of the sector, putting individual care recipients and their needs at the centre of care. AI is not an unsupervised technology that dictates what people do. Rather, it is a tool that helps professionals better understand each care recipient’s needs, and in turn, provide high quality care.  

If deployed correctly, care providers can offer advanced care services and care types that enable care professionals to confidently deliver care efficiently. This ensures care recipients age confidently, happily and healthily.  

Change needs to come from within the social care sector if it is to manage the current crisis. And while robotic carers might attract fantastical newspaper headlines, the real technology that we should be keeping track of is AI. With AI, a fast, more functional care system is possible.

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Rajiv Tanna is the co-Founder and CPO of homecare technology partner, birdie.