There are 2 types of assistive technology available which can be used either independently or as combined assistance. They are community alarms and telecare.
Community alarm systems have a pendant or wristband you wear which connects wirelessly to a base unit in your home. This base unit is connected to your telephone line.
If you need help because you have difficulties in your home such as falling, or if you're unwell or have another emergency, you're able to press a button on the pendant, wristband or base unit that connects you to specially trained staff at a monitoring centre who can give advice, reassurance, or contact nominated people such as family and friends, or the emergency services when needed.
Currently, there are a range of different alarms monitoring arrangements in place across the county based on each district authority area.
There is usually a charge for community alarms; how much will depend on your local provider. This may not be the case if you have a care and support package.
Alarms should be tested regularly to make sure they are still connecting calls successfully to the monitoring centre.
Telecare equipment can be used throughout your home to support you with identified social care needs and your carers. It's usually supported by a base unit connected to a telephone line and automatically raises an alert when help is needed. Examples of some of the telecare equipment are bed and chair occupancy sensors, falls detectors, property exit sensors, and smoke or carbon monoxide detectors.
Telecare equipment generally connects to your community alarm base unit, but rather than the pendant or wristband button needing to be pressed, it automatically raises an alert by dialling the monitoring centre when you need help.
They can also connect to a device held by a carer in the same building.
How to access the service
To use a community alarm or telecare, you'll generally need a telephone line and a nearby mains socket for the Lifeline unit. Most sensors are wireless and battery powered.
The base unit and any telecare equipment will be provided and installed for you, with a full explanation on how it works.
Assistive technology can form part of a care and support package or can be arranged privately. If you already have a care and support package in place, speak to your adult care worker.
If you haven't got a package, please contact your local community alarm provider, or ring Call Derbyshire on 01629 533190 to ask for an assessment.
The following are details of how to contact your local provider:
Analogue to digital switchover
Assistive technology has largely relied on landlines to plug the community alarm into for connection to a monitoring service. However, telephone providers announced plans to turn off their analogue phone network known as Public Switch Telephone Network (PSTN) and switch to a faster digital system.
Work has already started, and providers aim to permanently switch off the old network by 2025. This change will affect everyone who uses a landline telephone and will therefore affect our customers who have a community alarm or telecare. This is because our community alarms connect to a monitoring service via a phone line.
Reasons for the switch to digital
The change from analogue to digital aims to benefit everyone and supports the government’s ambition for everyone in the UK to have access to full fibre or gigabit-capable broadband by 2025.
Existing analogue landline telephones rely on copper wire and this is slow and costly. The internet places an additional strain on the system as people need data to be transferred faster.
As a Nation we're also using landline telephones less and mobile phones more.
How the new system will work
The new digital system uses Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology. This allows us to make telephone calls via the internet, in the same way as Skype, Microsoft Teams and Zoom. This is much cheaper, and the connections are faster because there is no reliance on physical wires.
What this means for you
From 2025 landline telephones will not plug into a socket on the wall, they will plug into your wi-fi or broadband router instead and work via an internet connection.
The switch over to digital won't happen all at once. Your telecom and internet provider will contact you when the switchover is due to take place in your area. They will supply you with a home hub / router and an analogue telephone adapter (ATA). This will allow you to plug your community alarm into the hub, the ATA will convert analogue signals to digital. This means you can use your equipment in the same way as before. You will, however, no longer hear a loud dialling tone when you press your pendant, this is because the call will be placed digitally.
It's important to note that calls will go through the home hub which uses mains power, this means the home hub and therefore your community alarm will not function in the event of a power cut. Some telecom and internet providers have assured they will provide all vulnerable customers with a battery back-up.
What you need to do
To find out more about when the digital switchover will take place in your local area, please contact your telecom provider.
If you have already been contacted by your telecom or internet provider regarding an impending switchover to digital, it's recommended that you:
- tell your telecom provider you're a vulnerable client with a community alarm or telecare equipment in your property
- ask to register with the Priority Service Register (PSR). This is a free and voluntary system that your telecom provider may use to ensure the correct support is given to vulnerable customers. This may provide you with advanced notice of planned power cuts. You may be eligible to register if:
- you're of pensionable age
- you have a disability or are chronically sick
- you have a long-term medical condition
- you have additional communication needs, typically due to a hearing or visual impairment
- you're in a vulnerable situation
- ask for a battery back-up in case of power cuts
- ask for an Analogue Telephone Adapter (ATA)
Ofcom are working with telephone providers to make sure they offer back-up measures for you if you don't have access to a mobile phone, live in areas with unreliable mobile signal, and are more reliant on your landline for reasons such as disability or ill health. These back-up measures may include battery-powered back-up phone lines with around 24 hours of standby power and around 1 hour of talk time. This would ensure you can still use your home telephone to call for help in an emergency. When mains power is restored, the back-up battery would recharge automatically.
What to do when you are switched over to digital:
- Before the engineer leaves your property, please test your community alarm to make sure it is still operational. If there is a problem making the call, the engineer should move you back to your analogue line.
- If you have any problems after the switch, for example, your alarm won’t connect to the monitoring centre, please call your alarm provider as soon as possible.
If you have any additional questions regarding the digital switch, we advise contacting your phone provider directly for more information.
If you have any further queries relating to your community alarm or telecare please email firstname.lastname@example.org.