Unprecedented challenges in adult social care can only be tackled by joint action: a new report reveals

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The difficult challenge of supporting people to live fulfilling independent lives while the adult social care system faces unprecedented financial pressure can only be overcome if local leaders work with people, communities and providers to find the solutions, finds a new report published today.

"A Problem Shared: Making best use of resources in adult social care", reviews how budget reductions have been achieved in England since 2009, and aims to help political and managerial leadership in councils tackle their responsibilities for delivering and developing care services.

Commissioned by the Local Government Association's Towards Excellence in Adult Social Care Programme (TEASC) and the Think Local Act Personal Partnership (TLAP), the report demonstrates that the recent economic downturn in the UK has led to the deepest cuts to local authority budgets in a generation, and that these budget reductions have impacted variably from one local area to the next.

The report shows that while some traditional methods have been used to deliver a large part of the cash releasing savings, this approach is not sustainable in the long term. More fundamental changes will be required, including supporting people to remain independent for as long as possible, and building the capacity of communities to support people in new ways.

Chief Executive of the Social Care Institute for Excellence and Chair of the Use of Resources Steering Group Andrea Sutcliffe says

"Our detailed analysis shows how tough it is in the current economic climate for adult social care. At the same time, we do not want to lose the focus on improving services and delivering person-centred care. This truly is "A Problem Shared" - local leaders will only be able to find acceptable and viable solutions by working together with people, the local community, providers and others. I hope this report will help to generate local debate to identify and deliver effective local solutions."

Chair of the Local Government Association's Community Wellbeing Board Councillor David Rogers says:

"This report recognises the unique and difficult environment in which social care is operating. We must redouble efforts to use all the resources available - human as well as financial - effectively and efficiently as possible. This does not take away the very serious concerns we have that current levels of resourcing for adult social care will make it difficult to achieve the kind of modern care and support system we want. But we must work collaboratively with local people to improve well being and constructively tackle this challenging shared agenda.

TLAP Co-Chair and Disability Rights Director Sue Bott says:

"It's very clear that the traditional methods of dealing with reducing budgets are becoming redundant. The most obvious strategies have been put in place, with diminishing returns. We are encouraging people to think more broadly and to place the challenge firmly within the transformation agenda. This cannot be done in isolation and it's imperative that we work collaboratively. Above all, priority should be given to co-producing solutions with people themselves, and their carers and families - recognising they are the experts on how their support needs can be best resolved.

Joint Chair of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services standards and performance network, Sarah Norman says:

"We need to learn from best practice across England and also develop our capacity to collect evidence about emerging best practice. "A Problem Shared" reinforces the importance of benchmarking performance and sharing good practice, and suggests some next steps for the sector to help manage future budget pressures. It is accompanied by a self-assessment toolkit, which identifies what an effective and efficient care and support system might look like, so councils can check their progress. In my experience, nearly all councils have good practice in some areas but most councils will not have done everything that the toolkit suggests. We will be testing this toolkit during 2013, and using it as a way of supporting councils' work to challenge themselves, to compare their performance, to develop better measures of success and to drive improvement.

Frank Ursell, Chief Executive of the Registered Nursing Homes Association, says:

"There has been consistent downward pressure on the residential care market to reduce costs. This is not sustainable, particularly when we want to ensure high quality services. We welcome the emphasis on local leaders working with providers and others to find the best solutions to improving care and support."

Notes to editors

  • The report is published alongside data that analyses national expenditure and activity trends over the last four years
  • A self-assessment toolkit with practical advice and guidance for council managers and their partners on how to maximise the efficiency and effectiveness of the resources is available. We would like to encourage councils to use this tool and share what they have learnt with Oliver Mills, TEASC Programme Manager by emailing oliver.mills@local.gov.uk (opens new window).
  • The report and toolkit can be downloaded from the link below.

Key recommendations from "A Problem Shared" include:

    • Co-producing solutions with people, carers and families, recognising that they are the experts on how their problems can best be resolved
    • Working with Health and Wellbeing Boards and NHS partners to steer the development of more integrated, personalised services that make best use of resources across sectors
    • Harnessing the energy, commitment and professional skills of staff to find new and better ways of meeting individual's needs
    • Encouraging providers and councils commissioners to work together to test innovative ways of improving outcomes for people.
  • This work was jointly commissioned by the Towards Excellence in Adult Social Care (TEASC) programme and the Think Local Act Personal Partnership (TLAP).
  • TLAP is an alliance of over 30 national social care partners committed to improving the delivery of personalised, community-based support.
  • TEASC (opens new window) is a programme to help councils improve their performance in adult social care. The sector-led initiative builds on the self-assessment and improvement work already carried out by councils. Its representatives include the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, the Department of Health, the Social Care Institute for Excellence, the Care Quality Commission, the Local Government Association and the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives.