Social alarms to telecare
Older people’s services in transition

Three: A critical review of the literature


Little of authority has been written about social alarms. This reflects the manner of their evolution and the fact of their perceived marginality to mainstream housing and social policy. In Great Britain it also reflects a widespread and unquestioning acceptance among housing service providers that they were and are a good thing.

Justification for this view of social alarms in Great Britain was readily made, as noted in Chapter One, by reference to the management efficiencies and cost savings that they permitted. In addition, in every service, it was possible to point to real events where the use of a social alarm had enabled help to be obtained in necessitous circumstances with, in many cases, lives being saved and a contribution made, therefore, to supporting independent living at least in its most fundamental of senses.

The glow of satisfaction felt by housing service providers about such benefits militated against any deep sense of enquiry about the technologies. As a consequence, caution before making purchasing decisions was often thrown to the wind, with the benefits that were anticipated being taken for granted. Searching questions about the effects of social alarms, their role and their wider potential were generally not asked and were, as noted in Chapter Two, not prompted by any attention within relevant debates about social theory. Much of what was written, therefore, tended to be descriptive accounts of services that were intended to give, and succeeded in giving, positive publicity to local service providers and equipment manufacturers.

Examples, from many, in Great Britain include one published in a national newspaper in 1983 (Daily Telegraph, 15 January).

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