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'For better social care, we need efficient processes'

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It’s widely agreed that the funding for adult social care and wider social care is in urgent need of reform.

According to the National Audit Office social care spending, including children’s social care, was 54.4% of overall service spending by local authorities in 2016-17, up from 45.3% in 2010-11.

But while spending is increasing, so is demand, due to an ageing population and years of underfunding, presenting local authorities with huge challenges both financially and in resourcing.

There were over 1.8 million new requests to local councils for adult social care in 2016- 17. This is equivalent to almost 5,000 requests for support received each day, with many requesting a financial assessment.

Getting through close to two million additional requests is no mean feat and local authorities are struggling to recruit experienced staff quickly enough to meet these rising pressures.

This is an issue North Lincolnshire Council faced. In 2016 it was struggling to keep on top of its adult social care financial assessments. It reached the point where the delay in completing financial assessments increased to over 12 weeks, meaning the council couldn’t charge service users and bring in revenue for over three months.

Recruiting experienced people was proving to be difficult, so the council partnered with us to reduce the increasing backlogs. We were up and running in two weeks. With a dedicated team supporting the council, the build-up was eliminated within nine weeks, with over 400 financial assessments completed in that timeframe.

If you consider that a survey we recently undertook found a quarter of local authorities are writing off more than £100,000 of outstanding debtor contributions every year, the importance of effectively managing adult social care financial assessments shouldn’t be underestimated.

That’s why access to the right support and integrated workflow systems to help administer financial assessments effectively is crucial to allow councils to free up both time and resources to focus better on debt recovery in the future.

While strides are being made in this area to improve processes, such as NHS Digital’s announcement to provide £700,000 towards nine social care digitisation projects, more should be done to help local authorities put their financial assessments in order. By doing this, they will not only improve service delivery and the lives of citizens but also save much-needed funds long-term.

Gary Bell, executive director, managed services, Civica

Column sponsored and supplied by Civica

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