Tag Archives: value for money

The future for social care programmes?

Last Friday I blogged on the government’s axing of the Caring with Confidence programme, and how on an initial reading it seemed to make little sense. But comments since then from care services minister Paul Burstow have explained more about the decision – and given a hint as to future policy direction.

Burstow, as reported in Community Care has justified the move to end Caring with Confidence by saying: “We were not getting value for money from the delivery. Not enough carers had been through the programme, and there was no evidence that delivery would accelerate significantly.”

Whether that is accurate or not is a moot point. But this statement may tell us more about future policy direction when it comes to social care programmes: if they can demonstrate they are providing value for money, they will be safe, if not – watch out for the axe.

Now, once upon a time I was a business journalist, and I used to regularly interview entrepreneurs who would explain that a project or an arm of a business had been closed because it wasn’t providing value for money. Their priority was the bottom line and if it wasn’t contributing to it, and showed little sign of doing so in the future, then it would be axed, more often than not.

That’s fair enough in business – they exist to make profits – but in social care, it is a whole different ball game.

In social care, investment in a project may not provide demonstrable fiscal returns; it is often a lot more subtle than that. For instance, how do you quantify the value for money for someone taking part in a mental health project? It may aid their recovery and wellbeing but does it provide value for money? How do you judge? Is it whether they are able to get a job at the end of it and therefore can come off benefits and start paying tax?

It’s not an easy call to make; social care projects often provide intangible benefits to those that use them, and in these cases it is generally more important than any financial returns.

In fairness to Burstow, he has added (again according to Community Care) that the money from Caring with Confidence will be reinvested in other carers’ projects, including a training programme to raise GPs’ awareness of their role in supporting carers. He has also said that Caring with Confidence materials will be available free to carers’ centres that want to carry on the work.

Nevertheless, Caring with Confidence will not be the last project to bite the dust in the coming months. The government is making difficult decisions and with the cuts coming – said to be 25% of local authority budgets – it is inevitable that some social care programmes will be axed.

There are projects out there that are not doing what they were set up to do well enough and need to be weeded out, but there are many more that do and should be protected. Government and council leaders will need to examine each one very carefully and assess the benefits it gives to service users before deciding which should be cut and not just make a decision based on financial data.

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Filed under adult social care, Carers, Mental health, social care

Commissioners must be creative in face of budget cuts

After what seems like an eternity talking about potential cuts in local authority budgets, they are now with us – and are as bad as predicted.

Around the country, local authorities are publishing their budgets for 2010/11 and they do not make for happy reading. From what I have seen, no local authorities are increasing their budgets, and many have announced multi-million pound cuts.

Some local authorities are making cuts to adult social care services as a result. Councillors are keen to point out that frontline services will not be affected, saying they will mostly be made in back-office functions or through efficiency savings – conveniently opaque terms that do not reveal exactly where cuts will be made or to whom.

What this does do is make the job of the commissioner of adult social care services more important than ever; it is they who will decide which services are cut and which are bought.

Getting more from less is a difficult trick to pull off successfully, but they need to rise to the challenge. Fortunately, personalisation gives them the opportunity to do it.

With personalisation’s focus on the individual, it gives commissioners more flexibility to work with independent providers and the third sector to provide a range of services tailored to the local community, rather than the local community having to fit into the services commissioned.

This can mean that the services commissioned offer better value for money because they are the ones that people want – not what the local authority think they need. Also, services that do not provide value for money can be safely axed.

Personal budgets also give service users more choice and control. While it can be argued that they don’t get either if the budget isn’t enough to cover their needs, they often, anecdotally, get services in more cheaply than the local authority had done.

Budget cuts should focus the minds of commissioners and those that do innovate – and work fully with providers, the third sector and service users – should help their service users to achieve better outcomes.

Their role should be about shaping the market and enabling it to develop, rather than dictating it.

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Filed under adult social care, Social care funding