Councils could slash adult social care bill by cutting dependency, report claims

COUNCILS could slash £3 billion a year from the total spend on adult social care if the system was better organised, a new report suggests.

The report by consultancy firm iMPOWER, which has worked with two Yorkshire councils to transform their adult social care provisions, says the £14 billion social care bill could be cut by stopping providing unnecessary care and promoting independence.

It goes further to say that should efficiencies be implemented, people with care and support needs could be better off.

iMPOWER worked with ten English councils in producing the report, observing adult social care departments - including Hull and Sheffield.

They found “expectations, cultures, processes and systems” have driven dependency in adult social care, resulting in increased costs, and in some cases “outcomes which are not in people’s best interests”.

The report argues that while an aging population is inevitable, growth in the demand for adult social care should not be.

It suggests taking steps to tackle “avoidable demand” by addressing people’s needs early, empowering people to more for themselves, and building self-sufficient and resilient communities.

The report calculated that some 20 per cent of the adult social care budget could be saved if services were reduced, avoided or delayed,

Martin Cresswell, chief executive of iMPOWER, said: “Our report shows it is possible to deliver better care for vulnerable adults while also saving £3 billion within the social care system. The starting point is to reframe the problem: rather than trying to meet growing expectations with less resources, we should be smarter and address demand.

“We clearly need to invest in staff and help them re-train in order to change the way we make decisions and engage with service users. Using behaviour science insights, we can be more sophisticated in supporting social care staff and customers to make smarter choices.

“Our findings also apply to other parts of the public services system that are under increasing financial pressure

and yet fail to acknowledge the possibility of managing demand differently. Reducing dependency will improve lives as well as reduce costs.”

Since 2015, the consultancy firm has worked with Kingston Upon Hull Council to transform its adult social care department, implementing a “radical” new operating model with a “cultural change to promote independence”.

It has also been a strategic partner of Sheffield Council for three years, “implementing their vision of helping citizens stay ‘independent, safe and well’”.

Sheffield were among the first to pioneer the development of the target demand approach mentioned in the report, recognising their core role as helping people be as independent as possible.

The report is at odds with previous warnings about a chronic under-funding in social care.

The Local Government Association (LGA) has warned that social care is at a “tipping point” and councils will face an annual funding gap of £2.3 billion by 2020. It has called on the Government to use the Autumn Budget to bring forward a cross-party review of adult social care to see how it can be sufficiently funded.

In response to the report, a spokesperson for the LGA said: “Councils are already doing a range of work to maximise efficiency in social care while operating on a shoestring budget.

“It is right to invest in prevention and early intervention but social care is so underfunded that investment in these areas is going down.

“As we have previously warned, social care faces an annual funding gap of £2.3 billion by 2020.

“It is vital that the Government uses its Autumn Budget to urgently bring forward a cross-party review of adult social care to set out how it can be sufficiently funded.”

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