A group of MPs, academics and technologists have condemned the cancellation by the UK Department of Health (DH) of a long-standing contract for an annual independent report on assistive technology research and development.
Production of an annual report on government-funded research to improve AT is a statutory requirement, set out in the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970.
However after 15 years of allocating funding to the Foundation for Assistive Technology (FAST) to produce the work, the DH announced last month it is to bring production in-house to its research and development directorate, at an estimated annual saving of £68,000.
In a statement, FAST said the move was “short-sighted” and “a false economy”, as it would lead to lower quality information being made available to policy makers, funding bodies and others. Overall it “will significantly hamper efforts to support disabled and older people to become independent through the use of technology,” the foundation said, as the DH report proposal is “insubstantial” and “only minimally meets the statutory requirement.”
The withdrawal of the contract also means FAST will no longer have the resources to update a publicly-available database it has been maintaining on AT research and development, it said.
In its own statement, the DH responded that this public information is already available elsewhere online, such as Research Councils UK’s Gateway to Research, and the EU CORDIS database. However FAST says these sites do not provide a comprehensive picture.
Seven MPs and more than 30 academics and technologists have so far supported FAST’s call for continued funding including EA Draffan and Mike Wald of Southampton University; Gill Whitney of Middlesex University; and Tim Adlam of Designability.