Raising the Standard of AT User Agreements

This blog post was written by Eden Munro, Project Officer for Hackney Council. 

In September, LOTI brought local authorities together to identify the shared barriers they faced to helping vulnerable people make the most of Assistive Technology (AT). Several of the issues raised related to recruiting participants for pilots of new AT equipment. I’m here to tell you about Hackney and Greenwich’s recent work aiming to improve the participant recruitment process for both individuals and local authorities across the whole sector.

The problems local authorities identified were:

  • User agreements are often long and filled with jargon
  • At the same time, they sometimes excluded critical information
  • There’s a lack of open dialogue about how local authorities best explain key information about an AT trial to people they are asking to participate
  • Local authorities were unclear on different methods that could be used to capture a person’s consent to participate other than a physical signature which makes it harder to recruit people to pilots meeting them face-to-face.

There are common elements to most AT trials: before consenting to participate a person will need to know what would happen at the end of the trial; which data will be captured and how it would be processed; and what they would need to do to provide feedback for the evaluation of the trial, to name a few.

Given the shared challenges and common elements in AT trials, the group of AT leads felt that some upfront thinking might save local authorities a lot of effort down the line and improve the quality of communication we have with people participating in AT trials. The key outcome we are seeking is to improve potential participants’ understanding of AT trials and to make the process of giving informed consent both simple and rigorous. Our approach to this was to develop a plain-english template for AT user agreements which you can view here. Having a template prompts local authorities to include key information, and suggests a way of wording this simply.

LOTI AT User Agreement Template

The template is accompanied by guidance for colleagues who are conducting AT trials, which suggests how it should be used. We were incredibly lucky to be able to draw on the expertise of Information Governance specialists from Hackney and Greenwich. They advised on how an individual’s decision to participate can be captured in the most practical way possible. The key principle of the approach taken is to give the person ample time to digest the information by integrating it into the overall participant recruitment process.

The next steps for this document are:

  1. Seek endorsement from Information Governance Group for London (IGfL), which represents IG leads from across London boroughs
  2. Create an easy-read document version, to make it more accessible for people with a learning disability.
  3. Update the document based on feedback from local authorities who use it and, most importantly, from people considering whether to participate in AT trials.

I am excited to put this template into use in a pilot that Hackney will be launching in the new year. Knowing that Information Governance experts have worked closely on this, I feel more confident that our approach to participant recruitment will be open and transparent, as well as being much simpler on a practical level.

The success of this work depends on local authorities using the template and providing feedback, so I would encourage other AT leads to use it for their next pilot and share their learning. Through their work on AT, the LOTI team have focussed AT leads’ attention on shared systemic issues, and brought us together to find solutions that help vulnerable residents make the most of AT.

Eden Munro presented LOTI’s Assistive Technology User Agreement Template and Guide at our inaugural Show & Tell on Friday 8 December. The full recording is available here.

Eddie Copeland
18 December 2020 ·
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