Ambitious Charity Unveils Dedicated Tech and Innovation Division

by Ross Stebbing

Wednesday, August 5th, 2015

use nowOne of Scotland’s leading housing and care providers has unveiled a new tech and innovation division as part of its £17m business strategy.

Blackwood, which has offices in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Stirling, sees the launch as a pivotal move to provide its service users with enhanced care and housing.

The new division’s main focus will identify, support and help develop the latest design and technology which can help those with disabilities live their lives to the full.

Impressive reputation

Since it was launched 40 years ago, Blackwood has built an impressive reputation for its expertise in adapting properties to let people with disabilities, sensory impairments and age-related conditions to live as independently as possible.

Traditionally that has included everything from fitting homes with simple enhancements like handrails or wheelchair friendly doors, to more complex project such as  disability hoists, specially adapted wet rooms, ‘rise and fall’ kitchens or even self-opening doors and windows.

However, Fanchea Kelly, the Chief Executive of Blackwood, believes the explosive growth in new technology spurred by the rise of smart phones and tablets, is set to transform the sector beyond all recognition.ross's release

She said: “We have always been about applying the latest innovations and that is why we are renowned as the experts within Scotland when it comes to adapting properties for anyone with special needs.

“However the pace of change in technology is unprecedented and the potential for improving and enhancing the lives of the people we work with is incredible. We are determined not only to keep up with that, but to be at the very forefront of this area.

“How many other housing or care organisations have an entire department dedicated to technology and innovations? Few if any. This signals our very clear intent to put technology at the heart of everything we do. It will ensure innovation runs through our organisation like words through a stick of rock.”

Technology

Blackwood will explore how technology can transform lives from ensuring services users are constantly connected with friends, relatives and carers to reminding them when to take medication. Likewise, connected touch screen devices could influence everything from the ability to open curtains, switch on TVs or order shopping.

Currently, Blackwood is focusing its efforts on a pioneering ‘Concept Home’ with integrated technology. However it is also involved in many other areas including pioneering digital inclusion projects and runs a hugely popular Student Design Competition. It will also continue to grow its own successful social media platform, bespoken.

A crucial part in creating the new technology and innovation department has been to incorporate the Blackwood Foundation, which formerly operated as a separate entity with its own board.

Colin Foskett has taken up a new role as Head of Innovation at Blackwood and will lead the  new team,including Paul Richoux (Social Media Co-ordinator) and Shawn More (Digital Skills Trainer).

He said: “This is a really exciting change and will ensure that Blackwood is really driven by innovation. We can be a powerful catalyst for innovation and design in the independent living sector.

“We already engage extremely well with people through bespoken, our pioneering online community to improve independent living and aim to influence technology and design.

“By also engaging in research as well as practical projects that support independent living, we hope to make a measurable difference to the lives of those with disabilities.

“We have found that many independent living products are poorly designed. People want equipment and services to fit with their life choices. By growing our tech and innovation division we are making it our aim to become the leader in tech care and providing innovative adaptations.”

Change

Blackwood is a registered charity, with its headquarters in Edinburgh, though it operates in 29 of Scotland’s 32 local authority areas, making it one of the country’s most widely dispersed care and housing experts.

Its new five year business strategy has seen it set aside £13.9m for housing investment, £2.3m for staffing needs and also funded an extra £1.2m into its care provision. It also has plans to ensure affordable rents for all service users while increasing tenant satisfaction in line with the Scottish Social Housing Charter.

Another crucial element in delivering change will see the charity expanding its services and footprint in Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow as key cities to boost its five-star rated care services.

Established by Dr Margaret Blackwood in 1972, Blackwood now has 400 staff and manages 1600 properties across Scotland and full details of its services are at www.blackwoodgroup.org.uk.

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Public rleations agency account executive Ross Stebbing

Private: Ross Stebbing

As part of the expert PR team at a fast-paced Scottish public relations agency, Ross Stebbing works on diverse clients in sectors including film and media, construction, healthcare and logistics. While he delivers PR in Edinburgh, his results appear in newspapers, magazines and websites all across the UK and beyond.

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