William Eichler 25 October 2017

Pepper the robot to take on social care tasks

Southend-on-Sea has unveiled a new mini robot which they argue will help the council transform its social care services by freeing up under-pressure staff.

Pepper, a small ‘humanoid’ robot, is able to communicate and perceive emotions. It is also able to adapt its behaviour and make independent decisions.

Southend-on-Sea Borough Council is the first local authority to buy and use Pepper under an academic license.

The robot, which the council describes as ‘kind’ and ‘endearing’, will be able to carry out certain social care tasks, such as running a reminiscence group or helping stroke victims with physiotherapy, freeing up staff for other tasks.

‘I have met Pepper and he is very cute, kind, engaging and learning all the time,’ said Cllr Lesley Salter, executive councillor for health and adult social care.

‘He is an amazing addition to our equipment team and I really think he will be both popular and successful with staff and our local community, both young and old.’

‘I am very proud that Southend-on-Sea is leading the way and we are all so excited to see what Pepper and this technology in general can do for our services and help us meet the well-known challenges that the social care sector faces.

‘Robots may seem like something from the distant future, but the technology is here and we strongly believe that Pepper can have a positive impact on social care as we continue to transform our services and make sure they are fit for the future.’

‘We are absolutely clear that Pepper is not here to replace any of our people, but to complement and help the existing staff we have to deliver a better service by freeing up time for them to deal directly with people for example,’ she added.

Sharon Houlden, director of adult services and housing, said: ‘Pepper will not be used to carry out any direct or personal one to one care, but he can used in a range of settings, including in residential care homes, our sheltered housing schemes and as an information and advice point in relevant buildings.

‘Pepper will also be a champion for the advances that digital and robotic technology and programming can make in a social care setting and he will visit local schools to inspire children to consider a career in the social care, robotic and programming sector.’

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