New scheme calls energy and water companies to innovate how to help people living with dementia

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Cadent, in partnership with Energy Innovation Centre, is seeking to engage innovators and businesses to transform the lives of those living with dementia, their families and carers.

Now UK innovators and SMEs are being tapped to join the quest, and work with the utilities sector to develop new products and services to help improve the quality of life for those who are affected by dementia.

Jo Giles, Customer Safeguarding Manager at Cadent, commented on the scheme: “Our hope is that through collaboration, we can make a real difference and find solutions to some of the common problems faced by people living with dementia(s) when it comes to accessing utilities.

“It’s through work like this that we are able to respond to the challenges faced by customers with specific needs and encourage innovators to come forward with meaningful solutions.”

The initiative involves not just the energy sector but also water and communication industries.

It also links in with the National Mental Capacity Forum, which seeks to improve the implementation of the 2005 Mental Capacity Act, designed to protect and empower certain groups including those living with dementia.

The initiative is also looking to tackle other accessibility issues which may affect those living with dementia, such as mobility and other physical issues.

According to the Alzheimer’s Society, the total number of people living with dementia in the UK is now 850,000, with numbers projected to rise to over 1 million by 2025.

To help encourage businesses to think about ways they can help improve the delivery of utilities for these people, the Energy Innovation Centre has now highlighted some of the key challenges which the sector must address by looking at new ways of doing things and creating new products.

The challenges include:

  • Communication, including improving how people with dementia communicate with companies on the phone or online, and how they can be prompted to remember security information, etc.
  • Bills and payments, including support navigating bills, providing meter readings, understanding payment requirements such as debit/credit balances, or support utilising different payment options.
  • Finance, including understanding and comparing different company offers, support changing providers, and help managing costs.
  • Fraud, in particular, supporting people with dementia to prevent them from being vulnerable to fraudulent schemes.
  • Safety, such as ensuring customers can use utilities safely in their own home and that that their safety is not compromised during unplanned disconnections, etc.

Denise Massey, Managing Director of the Energy Innovation Centre, said: “The Centre’s purpose is to bring innovators together with utility companies to make positive change and improve people’s quality of life.

“As part of this, one of our main priorities is looking at how we can work with utility companies to support customers in vulnerable situations.

“This campaign is a perfect example of how we can work with utility partners to do this, and we are thrilled to have already partnered with Cadent and the Alzheimer’s Society to bring this issue to the forefront of discussions.

“The utilities industry is always evolving, and so we want to make sure that customers in vulnerable situations are not left behind as it looks to continue innovating.

“For us, the way to do this is to use innovation to solve the specific challenges faced by the 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK.”

One example of how utilities can innovate is the Locking Cooker Valve, a simple solution which Cadent developed.

When the valve is locked the gas supply to the cooker is switched off, meaning it can’t be accidentally left on and there is no risk of gas escaping.

This means that those with dementia and others can retain their independence while also staying safe and warm in their home.

Ms Massey continued: “We hope that this campaign is the first major step in the creation of meaningful solutions that support the industry-wide goal of keeping customers on the priority services register, such as those with dementia, living independently in the safety of their own homes.

“We are beyond excited to see what the innovation community has to offer to support this cause.”

Businesses from all areas are encouraged to submit their proposed solutions to help the utility sector support people with dementia here