COVID-19 unleashed rapid growth in the digitisation of social care services.

This Innovation Fund project aimed to explore the extent to which the introduction of technological innovation in social care has been characterized by care worker and service user participation in the choice, implementation and evaluation of technology.  It also sought to identify promising participatory practices towards inclusive digital post pandemic care.

Research questions

  1. Explore the extent to which adult social care organisations have introduced or upgraded technology during the pandemic.
  2. Understand issues of participation around who has choice and voice (including workers and care users) in introducing digital technologies.
  3. Identify promising participatory practices towards inclusive digital post pandemic care.


Four case studies of social care providers in the voluntary sector, including 43 interviews with senior management, IT, HR, and front-line care workers and key informants (union and social care regulatory body).

Key findings

  • Variable pre-pandemic investments in technology aimed at workers and service users
  • Strategic and opportunistic acquisition of hardware and software brought about or accelerated by the pandemic
  • Devices distributed through Scottish government funding deemed inappropriate for service users’ needs and involved tasks that exceeded some frontline workers’ basic IT skills
  • Legacy of demands for increased digital skills among the workforce, yet minimal or limited formal training offered during the pandemic
  • Managerial responses to increased skills demands normalised and undervalued digital skills in social care settings, perpetuating ageist and gendered stereotypes
  • Mobile phones represent an increasingly digitally mediated and controlled social care workplace, yet these ‘simple’ devices neglect the complexity of care work
  • Trade unions’ mobilising and organising efforts during the pandemic benefited from use of digital technologies, e.g. social media channels increased awareness of the role of the union and benefits of membership. Yet gaining access to workers and new workplaces was more difficult in the remote pandemic context, with limited opportunities for workplace representation and the absence of spaces for carers to meet and raise collective issues about working conditions.

These findings highlight the need to consider digital inclusion not only for service users but also for the workforce.


Principal Investigator: Dr Kendra Briken (Strathclyde Business School)

Co-Investigators: Dr Alina Baluch (School of Management, University of St Andrews),

Professor Ian Cunningham (Strathclyde Business School)