Transformative Impact of Robotics on Social Care

May 15, 2024 | News |

The Role of Robotics in Social Care 

Robots have been employed in industrial manufacturing and warehouse automation for decades. However, service robots that help humans complete service-related tasks or enhance the user experience are a relatively new concept, only making their appearance in the last decade.  

In that time, consumers have become familiar with Google Home and Amazon Alexa (for managing devices in their home) as well as Siri and Bixby (virtual assistants for their smartphones). 

With more than 800,000 adults in the UK currently receiving long-term, publicly funded social care, robots stand to deliver the most important innovations of the 21st century, filling important gaps in the delivery of health and social care. 

In light of this, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care commissioned a review in 2018 into the potential applications of robotics and AI in the health and social care systems. In this article, we examine the implications. 

Impact of Robotics in Social Care 

In its “Robotics in Social Care: A Connected Care EcoSystem for Independent Living” white paper, the UK-Robotics and Autonomous Systems (UK-RAS) Network envisions a “Connected Care Network for Independent Living” that connects users living at home (or in residential care) with health and care professionals — thereby promoting a joined-up care system that fosters a smooth transition from hospital to home. 

Service robots in social care will: 

  • Drastically reduce the cost of care by automating a greater number of tasks. They will also help older and vulnerable adults prevent illness, stay at home longer, and free up valuable hospital beds; the Institute for Public Policy Research estimates savings of up to £6 billion per year. 


  • Significantly improve the quality of care, freeing up care workers’ time to deliver a better quality of service and better fulfil the pastoral and emotional needs of recipients of care. 

Social care forms a complex web of interconnected services, covering a wide range of activities, which include assistance with daily living, child protection services, and support for those with physical or learning disabilities. 

Several studies have shown that service robots can provide effective physical, social, and cognitive support, with a positive impact on mobility, mental health, and cognitive skills. 

Chart - Economic Impact of Robotics and Autonomous Systems (RAS) across UK Sectors (Source: Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy)

Chart – Economic Impact of Robotics and Autonomous Systems (RAS) across UK Sectors (Source: Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy) 

Use of Robots in Social Care 

Care providers are showing a growing interest in using service robots to improve the quality of care and ease the pressure on resources. 

The following represent the three types of robots delivering social care. 

Physical assistance robots 

Physical assistance robots help with tasks such as eating, washing, walking, lifting, and carrying. These robots include: 

  • Semi-autonomous wheelchairs 
  • Robotic toilets that adjust to the user 
  • Robotic vacuum cleaners 
  • Wearable devices that assist with rehabilitation and walking 
  • Exoskeletons that assist caregivers with lifting 

Social assistance robots 

Social assistance robots provide reminders and companionship, assist with engagement and loneliness, and monitor wellbeing. These robots include: 

  • Human-like (anthropomorphic) robots 
  • Robotic pets, including robotic dogs, rabbits, seals, and others 
  • Remote monitoring robots connected to monitoring services, emergency call handlers, and family and friends of users 

Several reviews have noted the positive impact of devices like Amazon Echo and Alexa in reducing feelings of loneliness, isolation, depression, and agitation. 

Cognitive assistance robots 

Cognitive assistance robots help improve memory, facilitate behavioural training of people with learning disabilities, or provide support to patients with dementia. 

Illustration - Overview of Service Robots Categorised by Technical Difficulty and Market Demand (Source: IDTechEx)

Illustration – Overview of Service Robots Categorised by Technical Difficulty and Market Demand (Source: IDTechEx) 

Key Takeaway 

The potential for robotic assistance in social care is vast, as the technology promises to revolutionise how we deliver and receive care. Robots can provide valuable physical, social, and cognitive assistance while also alleviating pressure on our healthcare systems.  

The integration of robots into social care is not just a fascinating prospect for the future, but an essential step towards a more efficient and compassionate care system. 


For a more comprehensive look at the role of robotics in social care, download our detailed white paper, “Bridging the Care Gap 2024: How Service Robotics Meets the Growing Demand for Social Care in England”.  

This report provides an in-depth exploration of the topic, offering valuable insights that extend beyond what was covered in this article. 

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