Socitm / ADASS guide highlights care challenges for local authorities
Councils in England have increasing responsibility and influence over health and social care. They will need to be more proactive in exercising that influence if they are to properly meet their responsibilities
While the NHS suffers from a local democratic deficit in England, the same cannot be said of the parallel services that provide care to some of society’s most vulnerable people. Adult social care, run by local government, is of course intertwined with healthcare run by NHS organisations, and problems in one often affect the other, such as hospitals blaming social services for not being able to discharge elderly patients.
Given there are around 400,000 elderly people in residential care, and that three-quarters of people over the age of 65 will need either this or care at home at some point, it is surprising that councils' work in health and adult social care takes a relatively low political profile. It doesn’t help that adult social care is run at Westminster by the nationally-minded Department of Health rather than the Department for Communities and Local Government, or that much residential care is provided by companies and charities, even when councils pick up some or all of the bill.
But many councils fail to distinguish themselves in this area. While their actions may be constrained by national rules, a new report commissioned by the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services and the Society of IT Management (Socitm) highlights how some are outperforming their peers.
Redesigning health and social care notes that 14 areas are pioneering integrated care and support. They include Torbay and Southern Devon, whose Health and Care NHS Trust already runs both community health services and adult social care in Torbay. That means Torbay Council effectively outsources adult social care to the NHS, integrating care provision for the elderly in an area where 23.5% of the population is aged over 65, compared with a UK average of 16.4%.
The guide also looks at the provision of information on care online, an area which is firmly within councils’ responsibilities. It is also set to expand, given provisions in the Care Act requiring local authorities to provide an information and advice service on all local care and support services. But this is an area where councils have performed badly, compared to their other service areas: last year, Socitm’s annual Better Connected survey of local authority websites found that only a third did a decent job of helping a user find out about care homes for an elderly relative.
Increasingly, it is likely to be the elderly themselves who do much of the research. While fewer than 40% of those aged 75 and above are online, this is changing as computers get easier and cheaper to use and older people discover their delights for other reasons, such as staying in touch with others. For these users, councils need to provide easy to use online services that work reliably. This can be done by groups of councils working with other local organisations: Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent councils partner with other public, private and voluntary sector organisations to run the health and wellbeing site StaffordshireCares.
As well as running adult social care, councils have influence over aspects of healthcare through their relatively new responsibilities in public health and the health and wellbeing boards that join them with local NHS organisations. On health and social care in England, the public and media should increasingly be examining the performance of local authorities, as well as watching A&E waiting times.
SA Mathieson is the editor of Council News Monitor and Director of Public Service Intelligence Limited a company that generates, organises and presents data, information and news on public sector organisations offering targeted services to elected representatives, state sector employees and suppliers to the public sector.
Redesigning health and social care (Socitm and Adass)
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The AnswerTime® format brings together four panelists, a chair-person and a studio audience of about 40 people. For our recording on attribute exchange, the panelists are:
• David Alexander, Chief Executive Mydex
• Ian Litton, Programme and Information Manager, Warwickshire County Council
• Martin Sadler, Head of ICT at Walsall Council and Chair of the Society of IT Management (Socitm) West Midlands region
• Annette King, Digital Birmingham
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