Independent living is key to future of adult social care

Published on Friday, 19 July 2013 11:42
Written by Vicki Mitchem

Efficiency savings in adult social care are becoming harder to identify as councils struggle to protect support for the elderly and vulnerable whilst tackling the £14.4 billion pound funding gap facing the nation's public services by 2020, according to a new report by the Local Government Association.

The key to creating a sustainable care system lies in completely rewiring the way we think about, deliver and pay for services like health and social care, with greater collaboration between local health providers and councils, focusing on helping people to retain their independence and to continue living in their own homes as they get older.

Over the last year the 54 councils that have taken part in the LGA's Adult Social Care Efficiency (ASCE) programme have collectively saved £161 million from their care budgets, half of which has been achieved through 'reducing bureaucracy' including having to make difficult decisions about cutting staff and closing residential care homes, as well as streamlining back office functions like HR and outsourcing services.

However, generating efficiency savings by scaling back and streamlining services can only be achieved once. The ASCE interim progress report shows that the participating councils are already finding things harder with 57 per cent of this year's savings expected to come from preventative care such as improving health and wellbeing and reducing social isolation and managing demand by signposting appropriate cases to the voluntary and community sector.

Looking at long-term sustainability, many of the councils involved have been developing programmes to help those with care needs become more self-sufficient by reviewing care assessments to ensure people are receiving the appropriate level of care, making better use of technology and telecare services, and providing additional support for the vast network of family and friends who provide more than £120 billion of informal care every year.

To make this work properly there needs to be much greater integration of local health and care services with all councils and health professionals working together to improve care in the community as the country attempts to get to grips with an ageing population, rising costs and shrinking public sector resources.

Cllr Peter Fleming, Chair of the LGA's Improvement Board, said:

"With an ageing population, growing demand and rising costs we all need to be focusing on how we can reduce the long-term burden of caring for the nation whilst at the same time ensuring we continue to provide the highest quality of care for those in need. But as this report clearly shows, just being more efficient isn't going to solve the funding crisis.

"What we need is a complete rewiring of the way think about, deliver and pay for care services starting with much greater cooperation and integration of health and social care services at a local level.

"By making sure we properly and regularly assess care needs together we can reduce costly repeat admissions to hospitals, avoid those in crisis situations being given intensive support for longer than they need and help give people in care what they want most which is to retain their independence."

The LGA Adult Social Care Efficiency (ASCE) Programme was launched early in 2012, working with 54 unitary and county councils on how to reduce costs without compromising care. The 'Interim Position Report' captures the lessons from the first year of the delivery phase and seeks to develop evidence about how savings can be delivered.

The ASCE report also identified a number of specific short-term concerns about how councils are going to be able to cope with the increasing demand for learning disability services and how they can provide better support for the transition from children's to adult's services. Over the next 12 months the ASCE programme will be working with leading councils in these areas to help find ways of replicating the success of other efficiency savings in improving the quality of care whilst helping to reduce the cost of services.

Source: LGA

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