English Churches Housing Group has announced a major upgrade to its IT infrastructure to make it compatible with digital communication systems.

ECHG, which is one of the largest providers of sheltered and supported housing services in the UK, has partnered with Tunstall to upgrade communication and monitoring systems to support the independence of its 6,000 sheltered tenants.

The need to upgrade current alarm and alert systems comes from BT’s introduction of its new 21CN digital network across the UK.

Current alarms used by ECHG are based on the transmission of tone-based alerts between social alarms and monitoring centres. Without upgrades, the switch to digital communications could risk an alarm activation not raising an alert, creating serious risks to ECHG tenants.

ECHG has prioritised a number of initial schemes for upgrade for which it will install Tunstall’s Communicall Connect, an advanced telecare-enabled system, at a number of its sheltered housing schemes across the country.

These will be followed with a national upgrade to 21CN-compliant future proof its alarm and communications systems.

By partnering with Tunstall, ECHG expects to save £220,000 in monitoring and maintenance. The cost savings will be re-invested to further improve housing and services for older people.

Communicall Connect provides a 24-hour communication system for tenants, which allows them to remain independent and there is also the option of including telecare sensors into their package of care on an individual basis if required to support changing health and social care requirements.

The system also provides on-site scheme managers and other staff have a network of radio receivers giving full-site coverage, together with a management terminal and site-wide paging. This can alert staff to problems so they can provide effective assistance to tenants.

Judith Crowther, director of older people’s services at ECHG, said: "We are committed to providing a service which actively encourages individuals to remain in their own homes for as long as possible and to enjoy valuable independence and an enhanced quality of life.

"Telecare enables tenants to do just that, keeping them safe, giving them their privacy and also the reassurance that help is at hand when required and Communicall is part of our response to that."

Jon Lowe, UK managing director at Tunstall added: "The work being done by ECHG is an excellent example of an organisation taking proactive measures to ensure the safety of their tenants by deploying telecare which delivers real and tangible benefits to older and vulnerable people through increased security, monitoring and support."