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How to solve a problem like ‘Adult Social Care?’

Monday 29 October 2018 Data Insight & AnalyticsDemographic Data

Stewart Eldridge's picture
By Stewart Eldridge

The challenge faced by the Government associated with reforms to the Adult Social Care system is not a new one. It is a complex issue with a range of contributing factors, which makes this such a tricky problem to solve.  But aside from funding, are there new ways of working that public sector organisations could use to tackle this growing and pressing issue?

Over the summer, the Local Government Association conducted a nationwide consultation to drive forward the debate on the kind of care and support we need to improve peoples’ wellbeing and independence. This will be followed by the Government’s long-awaited Green Paper due to be published imminently.  New figures revealed by NHS Digital also now show us that local authorities across England received more than 5,000 requests for adult social care support every day in 2017/18.

Local authorities across England received more than 5,000 requests for adult social care support every day in 2017/18

The current system is clearly unsustainable, particularly when to maintain existing standards of care we face a £3.5 billion funding gap by 2025. Surely the time has now come to seriously address the issue of ‘How to solve a problem like 'Adult Social Care?'

Adult social care services in England face significant funding pressures due to the combination of a growing and ageing population, increasingly complex care needs, reductions in government funding to local authorities and increases in care costs. Although Brexit has been the focus in Westminster for much of the summer, this is an issue that needs a robust solution as it will affect us well beyond our departure from the European Union. But what do we really know about the problem and what can be done to shape this essential service so that it provides us with what is needed in the future?

Since 1998, there have been a total of 13 green papers, white papers and other consultations as well as five independent commissions all attempting to tackle the issue of securing a sustainable care system. 

There is also common consensus across all political parties that we need to solve the problem of social care;

Health and social care are inextricably linked and any reforms must be aligned

James Brokenshire, Secretary of State for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government

We recognise that we need to move from our broken system of care to a sustainable service for the long term

Barbara Keeley, Shadow Minister for Mental Health and Social Care

It has disastrous consequences to underinvest in social care - we need to work together across political parties to come up with a new long-term settlement.

Norman Lamb, Liberal Democrat MP

Our surveys show beyond doubt that the overwhelming majority of both our national politicians, and the people they represent, will settle for nothing less than additional funding from Government to help solve the social care funding crisis.

Izzi Seccombe, Chair of the LGA's Community Wellbeing Board

The Government has promised additional short-term, ring-fenced funding for adult social care delivered via the Social Care Precept, the Improved Better Care Fund and Adult Social Care Support Grants. This means Local Authorities will have access to around £9.4 billion dedicated to adult social care funding over the period 2017/18 to 2019/20. But with a £3.5 billion funding gap by 2025, is this problem really being addressed properly at the highest levels of Government or is this funding simply a short-term fix? 

A reduction by the Government of social care budgets in England since 2011 means that the system has lost £4.6bn funding. There has also been a £600 million reduction to councils’ public health grants between 2015/16 and 2019/20. So, are we robbing Peter to pay Paul? 

Local government could consider adopting an approach to tackling health and care without boundaries, which is something that Wealden District Council has been exploring for some time and that has returned some great success stories

Although District Councils are not funded for public health, they do provide a range of services that are critical to peoples’ health and wellbeing such as housing, leisure and planning. It is for this reason that Councils have been working with the NHS for the benefit of the local population. This example not only alleviates some of the issues faced by the NHS but also tackles factors that can lead to pressures by adult social care teams. This joined up working promotes partnerships, prioritises resources and ultimately leads to positive outcomes.

When supporting older people to live healthy and independent lives, authorities must signpost their communities to help them to access local support and advice while at the same time helping to avoid loneliness. A good example of this is where Cambridgeshire County Council used data and intelligence to develop a set of personas to support the development of the area’s information offer for older people. The diversity found in our communities mean that not all older people are the same or have the same set of needs and requirements. The personas helped to clearly undermine any perception about older people being a homogenous group.

They also demonstrated a clear benefit through being used to understand older people at different stages of the social care process. The analysis was particularly powerful in showing that the profile for those seeking information and advice was significantly different from those who received a statutory service, and the profile of older people was different for each agency depending on the service provided. It also demonstrated the need to consider information requirements for those who were self-funders of care rather than just on those who the Council were providing care for.

Cambridgeshire County Council used data and intelligence to develop a set of personas to support the development of the area’s information offer for older people

Increasingly, we’re seeing public sector organisations like Wealden and Cambridgeshire adopting a blended data approach as standard to support key decision-making. On its own, we recognise that Government Open Data is useful but benefits from using other sources of data to add detail. Administrative data is detailed and relevant but, in some cases, can be incomplete. However, by blending this open and administrative data together with commercial datasets a more detailed picture is revealed; using it to supplement and sharpen current data sources to improve efficiency, shape service development and save money.

Blended data provides a much more detailed picture to help shape service development and save money

The debate surrounding Adult Social Care is rightly focused on funding as this is an integral part of the problem. Is an injection of cash the only solution to this problem or could the Government adopt a more data led approach and take learnings from local government to solve this complex issue?

 

Cut Through the Data Jungle

The challenge faced by the Government associated with reforms to the Adult Social Care system is not a new one. It is a complex issue with a range of contributing factors, which makes this such a tricky problem to solve. But aside from funding, are there new ways of working that public sector organisations could use to tackle this growing and pressing issue?

How to solve a problem like ‘Adult Social Care?’

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