Demographic changes and pressure on public finances are leading to radical changes in the statutory provision of assistive technology and mobility and disability equipment. Simple aids for daily living – such as walking sticks, mobility aids – are now increasingly appearing in a variety of existing and new channels. You only need to look in the small ads of the Sunday newspaper supplements.
However, there are challenges to the emerging market. Public awareness of the existence and benefits of simple living aids is low, the take up is limited by stigma and negative associations of old age and disability. And healthcare professionals are nervous about such developments – not surprisingly given the Office of Fair Trading’s recent investigation into unscrupulous traders taking advantage of ill-informed consumers.
As the supply of mobility products and assistive aids moves from local authority provision to the private sector, the question has been raised as to how to build trust and ensure the quality of these products.
Four models seem to be emerging :
1. “Trip- Advisor” style consumer-led rating system such as that proposed by consultants, Years Ahead
2. Certification system such as Age UK’s Engage Accreditation system
4. New kinds of trade associations such as the soon-to-be launched peer-approved Kandu Group which has been set up “to promote an ethical, moral and friendly way to do business in the care and mobility sectors and out of the belief that the care and mobility industries are in need of a change in focus, from profit to people.”
It is interesting to see the market building in its own safeguards in this way – there seems to be a recognition that these sorts of products are too personal and mean too much to people to allow the sort of unscrupulous traders identified by the OFT free reign.