Councils could release over £300m to spend on direct care
According to the Audit Commission councils could release over £300 million to spend on direct care for older people, if they reduced their expenditure on social care assessments and reviews to that of the most efficient councils. That sum would fund annual home care packages for nearly 20,000 older people.
The Audit Commission report, Reducing the cost of assessments and reviews, shows that the number and cost of assessments and reviews have increased significantly in recent years. The increases partly follow changes in policy, such as the move towards personalisation of care. However, this does not explain the differences in unit cost across councils.
The Commission found that the cheapest councils spend about half the amount of the most expensive councils on each assessment and review, while undertaking a similar volume of work and reaching the same quality standards. Many councils will be able to make significant savings by identifying and eliminating the causes of cost variation.
Andy McKeon, Managing Director, said:
'Assessments and reviews are a crucial element of social care, enabling individuals' needs to be properly identified and met. However, our evidence suggests that councils can spend less and still do an excellent job in helping people receive the care that they need.
'As councils struggle to meet the needs of a growing older population with less cash, any opportunity to save money and redirect it into care should be pursued enthusiastically.'
The report sets out a number of ways in which councils can reduce the costs of assessment and review. They include:
- Redesigning the 'care pathway' from a client's first contact with the council through to possible provision of care;
- Reducing overheads by streamlining administrative support
- Matching staffing more closely to workload
- Reviewing the grade mix of staff carrying out assessments and reviews; and
- Collaborating with other councils to share costs.